§ The Speaker acquainted the House, that the House had been in the House of Peers, where his Majesty had delivered a most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, and of which, to prevent mistakes, he had obtained a copy. After the Speaker had read the Speech,
The Hon. T. Liddell
said, that, in performing the task which had been allotted him, of moving the thanks of that House to his Majesty, for his Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, he could not deny that he felt a considerable degree of difficulty. If the task of addressing that House for the first time was, 27 even on the most simple occurrence, and on subjects the most light and easy, one which created diffidence and distrust, how much more must he feel upon such an important occasion, and under circumstances of such peculiar interest; and he begged leave to assure them, that the situation alone in which he had been placed in that House could have induced him to undertake the performance of so trying and arduous a duty. Beseeching, therefore, the indulgence of the House, he would proceed briefly to direct their attention to the leading topics in the Speech which they had just heard read from the Chair. That Speech might be properly considered under four heads. The first related to the Order in Council for the permission of the importation of foreign grain; the second, to the glorious conclusion of the long-protracted war in India; the third, to our foreign relations, and the prospect of the continuance of tranquillity; and the fourth led to a consideration of the internal situation of the country. In the first sentence of the Speech, his Majesty expresses a confident hope, that the legislative government will see reason to sanction the provisions of the Order in Council relating to the importation of foreign grain, and to the measures taken for carrying them into effectual execution. When they considered the beneficial consequences which resulted from the measures carried into execution by the government on this occasion, and the dangers which might have arisen by delaying such a necessary exertion of authority, he conceived there could be no difference of opinion with regard to the propriety of the course which had been adopted. When they recollected the small quantity of grain in the market, and the prospect of a very inadequate supply from the late harvest—when they reflected, that the supply from both was by no means sufficient for the consumption of the population—when they considered how very large a portion of that population was placed in a situation of the most trying distress—when they called to their minds how much that distress, which unhappily continued to exist, might have been aggravated by any want or any extraordinary price of that description of grain more immediately necessary to their subsistence—when they considered all these things, he would say, that if his Majesty's minis- 28 ters had remained in a state of apathy, unmindful of the wishes or the wants of his Majesty's subjects, or dreading the responsibility which a compliance with their desires might throw upon them, they would have proved themselves objects of censure and condemnation, as they now were of approbation and regard. No course could have been pursued more adequate to the end proposed, nor more becoming the high station which they were called upon to fill. In the hour of trial they had not shrunk from their duty—they had not feared the responsibility—they did not close their ears to the complaints, or shut their eyes upon the sufferings of their fellow subjects; but at once, by a decided and manly interference, produced a free supply of grain, at a time the most needful and most important, and in a manner the least injurious to the interests of the other classes of the community. Upon a measure, therefore, so beneficial to all the great interests, he confidently hoped that there could be no opposition to the concurrence which was required from them.—The next topic to which the Speech adverted was, the glorious termination of the war in which this country had been engaged with the powers of the Burmese empire. Whatever conflicting opinions there might have been with regard to the commencement of that war, he was confident that all must consider its conclusion to be as advantageous to the country which was compelled to engage in it, as honourable to those gallant armies which had brought it to such a successful conclusion. It ought to be recollected, that it was, on the part of the government of India, a war of invasion, resisted, on the part of the invaded, by all those peculiar means of defence, for which the Burmese had at all times been remarkable; and that that war had not been entered into until negotiation had failed, until remonstrance had been neglected, and menaces despised. He need not remind the House of the importance of public opinion in India, or of the necessity of preserving that moral influence over the minds of the people, by which alone our right of control could be effectually secured. The experience of more than half a century had proved the necessity of that course of policy which had been pursued; and when, in the present case, as in every other difference with the native powers, it became necessary to 29 have recourse to arms, to obtain that redress for insult or aggression which had been refused to remonstrance or complaint, the result had proved, that they were in a situation to resent insult and chastise aggression, from whatever quarter it might proceed; and he had an earnest confidence, that this had been done in a manner so effectual as to prevent any disturbance of their tranquillity in future.—The next topic alluded to in the Speech was, the assurance his Majesty gave of his exertions to allay the distrust, or appease the hostility of his allies in different parts of the world. He was sure the House would do justice to the feelings of his Majesty's government on this subject, in their attempt to allay hostility; and he hoped that he might upon that point be permitted to allude to the late proceedings in Spain and Portugal, and to express a confident hope, that the late events in the western quarter would lead to the ultimate establishment of representative governments over the whole peninsula. And here he was free to confess, that when he looked to the able and indefatigable minister who presided over the foreign affairs of the country, and who had, by his courage and conduct, so ably maintained its interests at home and its dignity abroad; and when he recollected the prompt and decided recognition by that right hon. gentleman of the independence of the States of South America—when he remembered the great privileges which he had obtained for our trade and commerce by that recognition, he felt bound, on acknowledging the debt of gratitude that was due to him, to say, that while he saw him still occupying the situation he had thus honourably sustained, he felt that his claims to present approbation entitled him to future confidence. And here he could not forbear expressing a hope, that the time was not far distant when it might be permitted to renovate the drooping spirits, and support the tottering banners, of those gallant men who had been engaged in such a long-protracted struggle; and to express a hope, that, dishonoured and insulted as Greece had been, she would be raised, ere long, from her present prostrate condition, to that station which she was so well qualified to occupy among the nations of the earth [hear!]. He was afraid he had, in this instance, gone beyond the bounds of that discretion which ought to be exercised on such occasions 30 as the present; but, if he had erred, he trusted his error would not be unpardonable, and that no sincere wish breathed in favour of freedom would ever be heard in that House with anger or indifference [hear, hear].—He now approached the last division of his Majesty's Speech, in which he spoke of the sufferings of his people in their late distresses, and of his sincere sympathy with their affliction, and his firm expectations that the time was not distant when their commerce and industry would resume their wonted activity. The country knew well the sympathy of that royal person in their sufferings, and had witnessed with so much gratitude, his generous exertions and his bountiful donations for their relief, that he would not attempt, by any praise of his, to weaken those expressions of feeling which were conveyed in the unqualified attachment of every class of his subjects. He was, however, but too well aware that some interests in the country still laboured under very great depression, although he trusted, that before any long period elapsed, the united wisdom and talent which he saw collected around him would devise such measures as would procure for them an adequate and effectual relief. He was not disposed to state any thing unfairly, or to regard the state of the country with any prejudiced eye; but he must say, there appeared to him to be two things which seemed to gild the prospect—which kept alive hope, and nourished expectation—and these were, first, the undoubted fact, that internal consumption had not materially diminished, in despite of all the suffering they had witnessed; and, secondly, the patience, the unexampled patience, with which the unemployed had endured their privations, amidst temptations of no common description. For, in their situation, temptation had not been absent. There had been then, as formerly, no want of seducers; but the talisman had lost its influence, and the seducers and their objects had been held in equal abhorrence.—The hon. gentleman then proceeded to observe, that he had avowed himself a friend to the present administration, but he begged to say, that he was pledged neither to men nor measures. His Majesty's ministers he considered to be entitled to his support upon general principles; but he retained to himself the full exercise of 31 his own discretion upon every question which might be submitted to the House; and, as long as he continued to be honoured by the confidence of the great county which had sent him there, he would adhere to the same rule of inviolable independence.—It only remained for him to say, that their prospect, although gloomy, was not, in his opinion, by any means devoid of hope. He trusted, trade itself might derive some benefit from a reference to the causes of those evils by which the country had lately been agitated; and that, as our natural atmosphere was said to be cleared by a violent conflict of the elements, so our political horizon would assume a brighter aspect after the convulsions by which it had been agitated. He trusted that, in the course of the ensuing year, there would, with increased confidence, spring up increased activity, and a return to a more sound and healthful state. He had now drawn the attention of the House to the arduous task he had undertaken; and if, in so doing, he had deviated into irrelevant topics, he trusted he might be permitted to throw himself on the indulgence of the House. That indulgence had been extended towards him in a manner he little merited; and, for the attention with which he had been heard, and the encouragement with which he had been cheered, he returned the House his most heartfelt thanks. It only remained for him to move, That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, in answer to his Majesty's most gracious Speech.—The hon. member then moved the Address, which was, as usual, an echo of the Speech from the Throne, and sat down amidst loud cheers.
Mr. George Winn
(member for Maldon), in rising to second the Address, said, that he did so with feelings of great anxiety and of great pleasure also. The anxiety that he felt was relieved by the gratification it afforded him, that the first words which he had an opportunity of uttering in that House were in the expression of sentiments of loyalty towards the sovereign, and of thanks to him on the occasion of the exercise of one of the most important branches of the royal prerogative. In this feeling of loyalty he was satisfied that all who heard him cordially participated. They had that day had an opportunity of witnessing the parental regard the sovereign had manifested for the preservation of the rights and liberties of the 32 people; and they must feel that so far from the royal prerogatives being inconsistent with those rights and liberties, they mutually supported each other. Among the topics of congratulation afforded by the Speech from the Throne, was the announcement of peace, and the gratifying prospect of its continuance. The termination of a war, such as we had been engaged in in the East, was attended with many and peculiar advantages, on which it was needless to expatiate. The prospect of the continuance of this peace, however, was more to be relied on from our internal means of preserving it, than from any external causes. Within ourselves we must look for its preservation, as well as for the prosecution of war, if war should at any time be found necessary. England was a country, powerful in more respects than one; it was a commercial, an agricultural, and a martial, country and, unlike the dangerous beauty of Italy, which, whilst it presented a temptation, presented no formidable resistance to invasion; it possessed ample and varied means to repel invasion, and on any and every occasion, to vindicate itself. Our commercial importance imparted habits of diligence, and brought with it knowledge to direct that commerce in useful and profitable channels. We had an active and industrious agricultural community—a fertile soil—presenting a flat face, favourable to the growth of corn, and of every kind of agricultural produce. Moreover, we had a warlike sword and a martial spirit to protect us, and these combined resources raised us above apprehension from the gripe of foreign aggression. As long as the foreign interests of the nation should continue to be conducted in the exemplary manner in which they had been directed by the right hon. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he had no doubt that the honour and dignity of the nation would be maintained, and the country effectually preserved from the miseries of war. In justification of this eulogium, which the subject had extracted from him, he would allude to two instances in which the wise and upright policy of that right hon. gentleman had been most conspicuous. When the admirers of the well-regulated balance of power in Europe had justly apprehended that the interference by France in the affairs of Spain was calculated to impair or to destroy it, and when the slightest encouragement 33 would have induced the whole people of England, smarting as they were under the effects of former wars, to engage in that which seemed to invite them, the exertions of the right hon. gentleman had prevented any indiscreet display of the martial ardour of the country, and had, at the same time, preserved the national honour inviolate. The other instance to which he alluded was the recognition of the independence of the South American states. No measure required, in his opinion, more profound diplomatic skill than this. Not only was it necessary to have great knowledge of the law of nations, but the nicest and most accurate skill in the application of that knowledge to the struggling interests of the colonies and the power of the mother country. The manner in which this great measure had been effected, proved that the right hon. gentleman possessed the first qualities of a statesman, and the result had proved that it was wise and just in its conception, not only by the advantages which had ensued, but by the fact that the other nations of Europe, however slowly and reluctantly, were compelled to follow the example which England had set them, of recognizing the independence of those states. He called these facts to mind, not because it was necessary, but because, in the present feverish state of things, it was a consolation to know that whatever exigencies might arrive, we had the advantage of that commanding and enlightened mind, the worth and power of which had already been proved under circumstances of the most trying description. Let the House look to the situation of the newly-recognized colonies, the people of which hardly knew (so unsettled was the present state of affairs in them) to what government they belonged: let the House look to the condition of Portugal and Spain, burning with feelings of old antipathy and national aversion against each other; or to Greece, that oppressed country, struggling against domestic and foreign foes, the former more fearful than the latter, and against whose crimes he could not trust himself to express the indignation he felt—and all would concur in proving the advantages which had already resulted from the conduct pursued by the government, and the policy of persisting in the same course. But, in order to effect as much as would be necessary to be done, he feared that when they came to consider the funds that must be supplied 34 for those purposes, they would be very considerable, and that it would be impossible to consider the country as safe, if the estimates were framed on as low a scale as strictly belonged to a peace establishment. The unsettled condition of the countries he had mentioned, the circumstance of their fleets not being under proper control, and the necessity of protecting the interests and property of British subjects, would make it impossible, he feared, to reduce the expenditure to so low a rate as every friend of the country must devoutly wish. The next point to which he came was the internal concerns of the country, and of these the first in importance was the late Order in Council. He had given to this subject the best attention he was able; and the result of his deliberations was, that the step taken by the government had been, in every point of view, expedient and necessary. There had appeared to be a deficiency in the crop of oats, and there was every reason to believe that there would consequently be a great increase in the price of this article of universal consumption, and which formed the chief food of the inhabitants of the northern parts of the kingdom. A failure had also taken place in the potatoe crop; and the distress which that must have occasioned in Ireland would have been so great, if measures had not been adopted to avert it, that he could not bear to think of it. Having named Ireland, he would say that he felt the deepest interest in the concerns of that beautiful, interesting, and lovely country, and of the noble race of men she produced, and that he would be, upon all occasions, the warm supporter of any measure which might be proposed for her benefit, excepting such as might endanger the present establishment in church and state. Perhaps the House was not aware of the importance of the crop of potatoes in Ireland; but he believed that the failure of the crops, and the disturbances of that country, had always been simultaneous. The residence of Irish proprietors on their estates, coupled with the introduction of English capital, were the measures best calculated to restore Ireland to prosperity; and he wished Irish gentlemen to believe, that, however their opinions might differ as to the causes of the distress which existed in that country, the greatest evil which could be done to it would be to prevent the introduction of English capital. He found that he had diverged a little from, 35 the subject of the importation of oats, to which he begged leave to return. He repeated, that he thought that measure necessary, and he rejoiced to find that, as the prices proved, it had not interfered with the agricultural interests of the country. This was not, perhaps, the proper opportunity for mentioning the subject of corn. While he did so, he avowed that his mind was open to conviction, but at the same time he must say, that as far as he had been able to form an opinion on the subject, he did not see any occasion for altering the existing laws, and he was not aware that it could be effected with safety to the agricultural interest, and to the commercial prosperity of the nation. He approved of the conduct which ministers had pursued in this respect; because he would much rather see an occasional exercise of that power, for which the ministers were responsible, than any permanent alteration of the Corn-laws. With the distress of the country every one must sympathize, because every one must feel it in a greater or a less degree. He trusted, however, that it was considerably abated; and he rejoiced to find that the diminution of the revenue had not been found; where it might have been most naturally; expected, and where it would have been most frightful, namely, in the articles of internal consumption. He rejoiced that the eminent talents, such as he saw around and before him, were not absolutely necessary for the discharge of the duty which he had undertaken; but that the common education of an English gentleman, and that second and better education which every man who lived in the world gave himself (if he thought at all) by habits of reflection and observation, with a mind free from prejudice on all subjects, as he hoped his was, accompanied by a zealous and earnest desire to do what was right, and laborious exertion, would enable him to perform that duty satisfactorily to himself and usefully to his constituents. He trusted that the day was at hand, when the burthens of the people would be lightened, and would be borne by the people more cheerfully; and when the clouds which had exhaled from temporary causes, would be drawn up by the sun of the country's glory.—The hon. gentleman concluded by seconding the Address.
said, it had often fallen Jo his lot, on occasions of this kind, to 36 complain of the very different practice which, of late years, had crept into the construction and management of these speeches from the throne, from that which formerly prevailed. Under the former practice, it was usual to give to members, especially to the younger ones, the opportunity of knowing, and of considering beforehand, the principal topics adverted to in the Speech to be delivered at the opening of a session; and he should still maintain, that the former practice was by much the safer and more convenient one, and that very serious evils, in a variety of cases, had arisen out of the departure from it. Yet, often as he had felt it necessary to urge this matter upon the attention of the House, it was a topic, of which, at least, the Speech from the throne, on this occasion, had deprived him. For, undoubtedly, he could not expect the House to listen to him with a grave countenance—even were he himself able, with a grave face, to complain of not having been allowed three or four days, for the purpose of considering, studying, weighing, and digesting, a Speech, that was composed—(so far as he had been able to catch its import, by hearing it read from the Chair, and by the echo of it in the speeches which the House had just heard from the hon. mover and seconder; of the Address)—composed, from beginning to end, of blanks. Never before had he heard Speeches, delivered either by his Majesty from the throne, or by any one of his Majesty's ministers, which touched so lightly—which said such nothings—upon some of the important subjects it alluded to; while it left out others, of the highest moment, entirely, though such were precisely the topics it ought most clearly to have discussed. And really, judging from the appearance of that House—from the manner in which it had heard this Speech read, and from the sort of impression produced by the observations of the two hon. gentlemen who had so ably moved and seconded the address—he was fully persuaded, that such also was the conviction of all who had heard the Speech in question. But when he spoke thus of the defects and omissions in it, he begged it might not be supposed that he attributed any blame to the preparers of the Speech. They were defects incident more or less to the prevailing passion for making these Speeches; and the Speeches themselves were, more or less, a mere civility on the part of the Crown to the parliament. They 37 generally, too, as had been observed for many successive sessions, were so framed, as to say as little as possible upon the most difficult circumstances of the times; but, in no instance, had a speech from the throne ever so completely failed to notice such subjects, as the present one had done, He hoped, however, that he should live to see the day when this species of introduction to the business of the session, this most useless, and, because useless, most unseemly (he would not use a harsher epithet) ceremony dispensed with. The best thing in the Speech which had been delivered on the present occasion was, that the hon. mover himself, who must have had all the necessary opportunities of considering it before hand, could rind no other way to dispose of it but by escaping from it. And far, indeed, was he, from finding fault with the hon. member on that score, because such a course, in relation to such a Speech, was matter of absolute necessity. If his hon. and learned friend, who spoke last, and who belonged to that profession which was supposed especially to possess the faculty of speaking about nothing at all, had discovered that here was a Speech upon which even that faculty could not avail him, and had been obliged to make a digression to subjects that had been altogether omitted out of that Speech, his hon. and learned friend was justified in his digression; but the very same omissions formed one of the grounds of his (Mr. B.'s) complaints. He really was bound, at the same time, to observe, after the praises in which his hon. friend had indulged, of the smoothness and the richness of the agricultural soil of this country, that the Speech itself possessed, at least, one similar good quality, for it was fertile as well as flat [a laugh.] It embraced a great number of topics, if it was explicit upon none, or upon none of the more important ones. His hon. and learned friend had just directed their attention, with some anxiety, to one part of the Speech, in which, as he stated it, they were instructed to proceed in the business of economy and retrenchment in the public expenditure. It did appear to him, that his hon. and learned friend, before he proceeded to make those observations which this passage had elicited, should have recollected that rule of law, which held, "that deception is apt to lurk under generalities." Now, that rule ought to be a very great comfort to his hon. and 38 learned friend; and should operate to relieve him from the alarm which he had evidently conceived at the bare suggestion of economy and retrenchment, in preparing the estimates for the current year. His hon. and learned friend had had less experience than himself, in the matters of king's speeches and estimates, otherwise the very last alarm which he could ever have been subject to, would have been a dread of those estimates being framed on too reduced or too economical a scale [a laugh.] Even had the Speech from the throne specifically pledged the government to frame them upon the most modest scale, the apprehensions of his hon. and learned friend would have been quite unfounded. In point of fact, this production employed the most vague and general expressions, in order to intimate the intention of ministers to frame the estimates after a low rate, that he had ever heard used, even in a king's Speech. The language was to this effect:—that his Majesty "will take care that the estimates shall be formed with as much attention to economy, as the exigencies of the public service will admit." Why—nobody ever heard the word "economy" employed in a king's speech, or retrenchment mentioned in the speech of one of his Majesty's ministers, without such a qualification as that; and even in the most wasteful and extravagant times of the government, intentions of retrenchment and economy had never been hinted at in any other way. He would fain have his hon. and learned friend comforted, moreover, by the assurance that, even when the strictest economy was professed to be the favourite object of administration—when the nation expressed, unanimously, its earnest desire that it should be practised in every department of the state—when a firm resolution was declared on the part of his Majesty's government that the wishes of the whole population of the country should be listened to, and, as far as possible, complied with, by the adoption of every practicable retrenchment (for he had even heard such language as this from the government, on some occasions);—alarming as all this would have been, at such times, to his hon. and learned friend, yet if the period for producing the estimates had not then arrived, those alarms of his hon. and learned friend would subsequently have proved to be as unfounded as they now were. Those 39 alarms would afterwards have been dissipated by the very first page of the very first estimates laid upon the table; for it would have clearly demonstrated what was the real value of professions of economy so made, and what the vanity of alarms founded upon such professions. Among the omissions that he had to charge upon this Speech from the throne, there were two, of which he must especially complain—the one (which had been but ill supplied by his hon. and learned friend in that part of his digression that extended to her affairs) was that which regarded the present state of Ireland—the other respected this very topic of retrenchment. Now, it did strike him as one of the most extraordinary incidents he ever remembered to have happened upon an occasion of this kind, that when, in the minds of all men—whether in the sister kingdom, or in this part of the united empire—there prevailed but one common opinion on the present aspect of public affairs; and that next in importance only to those measures which related to the food of the people, and, in many minds, even above those in importance—the urgent, imperious, necessity was felt of having the affairs of Ireland speedily, though maturely and diligently, considered—that from beginning to end of this Speech the name of Ireland should never once occur. He had not a very distinct recollection of the matter; but this circumstance reminded him of an extraordinary and analogous fact, that distinguished the commencement of the American war. At that period—at the very moment when we had already arrived at the crisis in which all men's eyes were turned towards America—when the word "America" was on the quivering lip of every man, who thought of the condition, or felt for the welfare of his country—among all the topics to which the Speech from the throne, then delivered, directed the attention of the House, the name of America, either by specific mention, or implied allusion, was not to be found. So Ireland was a name altogether omitted on the present occasion. In the instance he had just adverted to, so far was the omission of America from being congenial to the hopes or the expectations of men, on either side of the Atlantic, that a most remarkable circumstance (as he had heard, but a few minutes before from a gentleman who was in America at the time) took place in one of her cities on the ar- 40 rival of a copy of the royal speech there It was thought in America to be a bitter satire upon the monarch and the parliament of this country; insomuch, that the man who first ventured to promulgate it was cast into prison as a gross libeller, and was confined there until his vindication arrived in the shape of official despatches to the representative of the British government in that place. He would venture to say, with respect to Ireland, that no man, not being acquainted with the contents of this document—no man who remembered what had passed within the last few years, or the events which still were passing in that country—would believe that such a speech could have been pronounced at this time. Obvious reasons prevented him from at present enlarging on this unfortunate subject; but he protested against the omission, and should expect to hear—not at present, perhaps, but certainly hereafter—some strong reasons assigned in justification of that omission. By much the best, and by far the most satisfactory, would be,—the proposition on the part of his Majesty's government, of some measure of sound, and liberal, and enlightened policy—calculated to effect the end of doing justice to Ireland, and of saving the Irish people from the combined horrors of civil and religious warfare: of protecting the country in what had been made its weakest point, but what, well managed, ought to be the very right arm of its strength, and of the strength of the united empire. As to the question of retrenchment, it might be said by some, "When the estimates come before us, it will be time enough to think of that." But, taking into account the vague import of terms like those employed in the Speech—of all which was to be found there on this topic—and listening a little to the reports which he heard circulating around him (some of them, by the bye, verified by outward and visible signs), he must confess, that he could not help feeling strongly impressed with the conviction, that one reason why no more direct and specific pledge, binding the House to effect further retrenchments in the public expenditure, had been given on this occasion, was—that certain propositions might be expected to be speedily laid before it, savouring of any thing rather than of retrenchment—of any thing rather than a disposition to economise our resources—of any thing rather than a due regard—he 41 would not say to the prejudices, but to the just and natural feelings of the people of this country—propositions, in short, which, once submitted, it might be a hazardous thing to predict the consequence of carrying. But he doubted whether they ever could be carried through the House; but, if carried, he was sure they would be so, with the deep, unanimous, and loudly-expressed reprobation of the people of England. These were not times for tampering with the feelings, or the opinions, of the people of England. The people were in a condition of extreme distress, and that distress extended not to any one class, but affected the farming as well as the manufacturing and commercial classes. Foolish theories had been set afloat, the effect of which was, to attribute the prevailing distress to causes that, instead of having heightened, had rather, in truth, alleviated it; causes, part of which were, by the nature of things, absolutely unconnected with it; while another part supplied a real set-off against those afflictions, and tended to mitigate rather than to increase them. But let the real causes of such distress be what they might—and whatever might be the collateral evils, by some expected to result from the application of the remedies which had been proposed—or assuming that the distresses which it was anticipated would arise from them to the agricultural interest might be as severe as ever their alarms Lad predicted—in all, in any, and in every case, one method remained to us—there were means within our power which must, at any rate, alleviate these distresses. These were retrenchment; the saving of the public money; the repeal of noxious taxes; the reduction of public burthens; the cutting down of every estimate, not merely to the rate at which the most moderate of them was now framed, but to that rate to which the people of England felt they had a right (aye! and would make that assembly too, feel, that it had the right, and owed the duty) to cut them down. This was the very least which parliament, under the circumstances of the country, could do. Not one single sixpence must be uselessly spent The reduction of every salary of the public functionaries, in the civil, naval, and military departments, from the highest to the lowest; the allowing not a single farthing of the money which was wrung, hardly wrung, from, though still content- 42 edly paid by, the suffering people of this empire, to be expended but upon services, the absolute, indispensable, necessity of which would justify such expenditure. This course of proceeding only would satisfy the people of England. If such a course would relieve them—and as far as it went, it must relieve them—that relief they had a clear right to. But, even if it should fail to do so, it would still be giving them that which they had an undoubted right to demand; and that which, as their right, the House ought not to dream of refusing them. It would give to the people the satisfaction of knowing that, while they were suffering under the pressure of almost unendurable torments, the members of the legislature and of the government were not squandering their hard earnings, or permitting the wasteful expenditure of their resources. But he had heard of great public works which were carrying on—of new palaces. Talk of new palaces at such a moment as this! talk of architectural improvements, of architectural beauty, and taste, and ornaments, at such a moment as this! Let hon. gentlemen believe him, that, if they had the feelings of an English House of Commons—of such men as had sat there before them—they would direct their attention to other subjects, with a view to satisfy the country, and to secure her safety. Let them believe him when he told them, that of all the architectural ornaments, or decorations, which, at that time, could attract to the metropolis, the eyes of the whole country—the very best, and purest, and most honourable, would be, unfinished palaces—unfinished palaces, while the people of England were suffering. He had now expressed his own conviction on this subject, without allowing himself to be deterred by the risk of exciting dissatisfaction in any quarter. He had deemed it to be his bounclen duty not to suffer the present occasion to pass by, without declaring his strong and decided impression, that they could do their duty to the people only by pursuing the two courses which he had endeavoured to point out; first that of tranquillizing Ireland by doing her justice; and, secondly, that of keeping England peaceable, by every possible reduction of the public expenditure.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said—I am really, Sir, somewhat at a loss to know what the hon. and learned gentleman requires, when he speaks of the barrenness, of information in the Speech from the 43 Throne, and of the necessity of amplification under which, as he says, the hon. mover and seconder of the Address felt themselves in consequence. Nor can I exactly understand the justice of the complaint which we have heard, in such loud tones from the hon. and learned gentleman, with respect to the discontinuance of the usage of communicating the contents of the royal Speech on the evening before its delivery from the Throne. I undoubtedly recollect that, during the early period of my experience in parliament, it was the custom the night before the commencement of a session, to read to such members as might think proper to assemble to hear it, at a place called the Cock Pit, the Speech with which the king's ministers had advised his Majesty to open the session. Various inconveniences, however, which resulted from that practice have long occasioned its discontinuance; nor can I now understand the tendency of the complaint made by the hon. and learned gentleman; nor conjecture what advantage would have been derived from bringing the Speech prematurely before the public. Let it, also, Sir, be recollected, that, with the discontinuance of a communication of the intended Speech, a few hours before its delivery, has grown up another custom, which must materially counteract any evil, if evil there be, resulting from such discontinuance; namely, that it is not now usual to insert in the Speech any passages which may call in the Address for any pledge by the House of the precise course which they may deem it expedient to adopt; and, therefore, that, in the present day, the Speech requires nothing in the Address beyond an ordinary and courteous reciprocation of good dispositions. If the hon. and learned gentleman thinks there is any thing in the Address which will preclude any hon. gentleman who may assent to it from taking whatever parliamentary course he may deem most advisable, with respect to any of the important questions that may come under our discussion, he opposes it on fair and intelligible grounds. But it is notorious, that that is not the case; and that on this, the first day of the first session of a new parliament, no attempt whatever has been made to pledge beforehand those who may concur in the Address to the support of any measures which his Majesty's ministers may think it their duty to propose or advocate. There really never was a Speech from the Throne 44 which, in compliance with the modern usage to which I have been adverting, less distinctly called for any such pledge, than the Speech which is now under our consideration. The truth is, Sir, that parliament has been assembled at the present season, which, especially since the Union, is undoubtedly a very inconvenient period of the year not for the purpose of precipitating any of those important discussions which require the fullest attendance and the most patient deliberation, but because, in defence of the laws and of the constitution of the country, it has been thought right to call parliament together to provide an indemnity for his Majesty's government, in consequence of the measure by which, although under what appeared to them to be a great and urgent necessity, they violated those laws, and that constitution. It is true, Sir, that, without offering any very great insult to the laws or to the constitution, and that, without any very extravagant stretch of the royal prerogative, the meeting of parliament might, perhaps, in the present instance, have been deferred. But, although his Majesty's ministers felt that the postponement might, in this case, have taken place without any great impropriety, they also felt that the precedent of postponement might be mischievous. Although they felt as sure of the approbation of parliament for the step which they took, as men can be who are conscious that they only did that to which they were prompted, by an over-ruling necessity, they also felt that they should have been wanting in duty to the king, and in respect to the constitution, if they did not advise his Majesty to summon parliament expressly for the purpose of passing judgment ort the extent of the necessity to which they submitted, and on the soundness of the discretion which they had exercised. On this subject, Sir, much as I have reason, in common with, the House at large, to admire the speech of the hon. seconder of the Address, and much as I have reason to be personally thankful to the hon. gentleman for many of the sentiments which he so ably expressed, I cannot say that I shall be disposed to claim the approbation of the House, precisely on the grounds stated by my hon. friend. I am very far from thinking that that is the best possible state of the law on this important question, which requires this occasional and irregular interposition of his Majesty's 45 government. I am the last man in this House to argue, that such a condition of the law is desirable; for it may be remembered, that among the motives which were urged by me, towards the conclusion of the last session of parliament, to induce the House to agree to the bill for the introduction of bonded corn, was the expediency of diminishing, as much as possible, the necessity for the exercise of any discretion on the subject, on the part of his Majesty's government. The object, therefore, which we have in view in the proposed bill of Indemnity is not to elicit the approbation of parliament of any general measure, but to obtain a particular sanction for a particular measure, arising from an evident and unavoidable necessity. If, however, the hon. and learned gentleman complains, that his Majesty's Speech does not contain any direct intimation of the course which it is his Majesty's ministers' intention to pursue, with respect to a subject which at present agitates the feeling of so large a portion of the community, he will perhaps be satisfied when I assure him and the House, that at a very early period after our next meeting, I shall be prepared, on the part of his Majesty's government, to propose such measures with regard to the Corn-laws, as in their opinion will be beneficial to the country, and conciliatory towards all the great interests involved in the determination of the question [hear, hear !]. At least, Sir, it shall be shown, that his Majesty's ministers have no disposition to shrink from the subject; and I again pledge myself as the organ of his Majesty's government, that many weeks shall not elapse after our meeting again, before I bring it under the consideration of the House. Such being the case, I trust that I shall not be considered as saying any thing disrespectful to the House, when I declare, that I will not be provoked into any premature or partial discussion of a question, which demands the most full and deliberate consideration. The hon. and learned gentleman has said, that the hon. seconder of the Address, in adverting to that passage of the king's Speech which declares, that "the Estimates for the ensuing year shall be formed with as much attention to economy as the exigencies of the public service will admit," appeared to entertain an alarm, that the economy alluded to would be excessive, while, on the other hand, he himself was 46 exceedingly apprehensive that it would fall infinitely short of what was requisite. Really, Sir, we ought to feel some satisfaction at having framed a paragraph with such skill as to excite opinions so contradictory [a laugh]. The hon. and learned gentleman, however, says that it is an indefinite expression. Indefinite it necessarily must be, unless it had been practicable to introduce details; but I do assure the hon. and learned gentleman, that the most extravagant construction which his powerful imagination can put on the apprehension of the hon. seconder of the Address is not more extravagant than the antagonist apprehension which the hon. and learned gentleman himself professes to entertain. The hon. and learned gentleman appears to have "some monster in his thoughts," the nature of which it is impossible for me to conjecture. All I can say is, that there is nothing in the contemplation of his Majesty's ministers which can justify the hon. and learned gentleman's alarm at that, whatever it may be, for which, having no place in his Majesty's Speech, the hon. and learned gentleman imagines a place elsewhere. [Mr. Brougham said something across the table, which we were unable to hear]. Then really, Sir, the hon. and learned gentleman has thrown a great deal of very good intonation away [a laugh]. I should be glad to know on what terms his Majesty's government could secure themselves from the imputation of criminal expense, on the part of the hon. and learned gentleman. I grant, Sir, that if the hon. and learned gentleman thinks we ought, on the spur of a temporary pressure, to cut down and change all the existing establishments of the country,—I grant that, if that is the hon. and learned gentleman's project, no such thing is in our intention; nor I am sure would any such, proceeding receive the sanction of this House, nor of the people at large, whom it professed to benefit. The hon. and learned gentleman thinks that the best accompaniment and consolation to a suffering people is the suspension of all public buildings. I am of a contrary opinion. I think that a prosecution of public works must be available to their relief. To me it appears that, if people want bread, it is a strange remedy for their distress, to suspend the employment by which alone they can procure it. While the character of the country remains what it is, the de- 47 cent splendor of the Crown, and the comfort of the people, will never be considered incompatible objects: the dignity of high stations will not be regarded with an envious eye; nor will one class of the community find any consolation for their own evils in pulling down another. Not apprehending that any such disposition exists in any part of the public, I can assure the hon. and learned gentleman, that it is not the intention of his Majesty's government to carry economy to such an extent, as to induce that public to turn round and charge us with going into an extreme. The hon. and learned gentleman is dissatisfied with the declaration in the Speech, that "the Estimates shall be formed with as much attention to economy as the exigencies of the public service will permit." Does the hon. and learned gentleman suppose that there are no exigencies in the public service? Has this country no station to maintain? Is nothing required from us towards the maintenance of tranquillity in Europe? May we not, at a moderate charge, prevent the occurrence of an evil which, in a single twelvemonth, would plunge us into an expense, greater than an ill-judged economy would balance in a course of years? His Majesty says in his Speech, that he "is exerting himself with unremitting anxiety, cither singly, or in conjunction with his Allies, as well to arrest the progress of existing hostilities, as to prevent the interruption of peace in different parts of the world." Does the hon. and learned gentleman believe, that, in order to effect this object, it is not necessary to maintain considerable establishments? If we look at the new world. Are there not contests going on which humanity requires should be put an end to? In Europe have we not an ally whose condition solicits our aid; an ally in such a situation, that any hesitation or fluctuation of policy, on our part, might invite an attack upon her? May not our presence on the spot prevent an aggression on the power to which I allude? Is not the English fleet now in the Tagus, an obviously wise and economical expense? Will it not be advisable to continue that expense, if it is calculated to prevent an explosion, the consequences of which no one can foresee? Do not let it be supposed, by my adopting this illustration of the necessity of a certain establishment, that it is the policy of his Majesty's government to meddle with the 48 internal affairs of other countries. I trust we know the limits of our duty too well. It is our duty to take care that the frontiers of Portugal shall not be crossed by an offensive army; but it is not our duty to give one faction, or party, an ascendancy over the rest. The force which we maintain at Lisbon, therefore, is maintained, not with any view of interfering in the internal affairs of Portugal; not with any view of intimidating any party in Portugal; but simply with a view to prevent such acts of foreign hostility as, in their consequences, might involve Europe in the horrors of war. It is on that ground, Sir, that I take our conduct towards Portugal as an illustration of the wisdom and necessity of maintaining certain establishments; and I challenge the hon. and learned gentleman, who desires us to cut down all our establishments, to put his hand at this moment on any of our establishments as unnecessary, in which I will not shew that there are the seeds of safety; in which I will not shew that there are the roots of a well-ordered, a well-regulated, and a permanent economy. That is the sense in which the Speech from the Throne adverts to possible exigencies of the public service. There is no intention, under that name, to shelter any of those extravagant propositions, the probability of which the hon. and learned gentleman appears to contemplate. There is no part of the policy now pursued by his Majesty's government, dependent on the establishments of the country, which I am not ready to go through, point by point, and show its real efficacy and ultimate economy; and that, Sir, as I conceive, is the only possible answer which I can give to the conjectures of the hon. and learned gentleman.—With regard to the condition of Ireland, I shall only observe, that the absence of any topic in the Speech from the Throne does not at all preclude parliament from entertaining the consideration of that topic, if it should think fit so to do. The Speech states those points alone, respecting which it is intended by his Majesty's government to call on parliament to adopt some proceeding. It is not our intention at present to bring before parliament any specific measure respecting Ireland; but that will not prevent any individual member from agitating the subject. I will not, however, be tempted, by what has fallen from the hon. and learned gentleman, to say another 49 word about it. The hon. and learned gentleman knows as well as I do, that if, in the course of the session, the question to which I allude should come under consideration, I shall be ready to meet—not the hon. and learned gentleman, for our opinions on the question agree—but the question itself, as I always have met it, with the most anxious and determined attention. Sir, not having been able exactly to understand the purpose of the hon. and learned gentleman's speech, but understanding that he does not mean to object to the Address, I have perhaps said enough on the present occasion; but I cannot sit down without congratulating the House on the accession of talent which they have gained in the hon. member who opened the debate of this evening. I trust, from the promising commencement of that hon. member's parliamentary career, that he will not confine himself to an occasional display, but that he will illustrate by the display of his abilities the various important questions which, from time to time, come under our consideration. I may also be allowed to say, that so far from my feeling the part which the hon. mover and seconder have taken this night the less acceptable, in consequence of their declarations that they are determined to exercise their own judgments on the subjects which may come under their consideration, that they will endeavour to keep their minds free from prejudice and open to conviction, and that they are resolved to mix a general support of his majesty's government with a general spirit of independence; I experience the greatest pleasure in hearing the statement. Such are the minds from whom we hope for the most beneficial, because the most honourable, aid; and it is only with such qualifications, and under such restrictions, that his Majesty's government ask the support of any man who now sits in this House for the first time.
in explanation, denied that he had any wish to see the estimates reduced below what the exigencies of the public service would permit.
§ Mr. Hume
reprobated the indisposition constantly exhibited, on the part of his Majesty's government, to diminish the naval, military and civil establishments of the country. Even where they had expressed any intention to do so, their acts had not corresponded with their declarations. If the hon. seconder of the Ad- 50 dress would read the Speech from the Throne, in February 1822, he would find in it an unequivocal recommendation to parliament to relieve the burthens of the people; and the result would show the hon. member, that he need not entertain any fears that economy and retrenchment would be carried to too great length; for by referring to the estimates, the hon. gentleman would find, that they had gone on increasing in amount from that time to the present moment. Notwithstanding the Address of the House in 1821, calling on the Crown to effect every possible reduction of expenditure; notwithstanding the answer to that Address promising relief; notwithstanding the Speech of 1822, the army, navy and ordnance estimates of the present period exceeded by 1,700,000l. the estimates of the period to which he alluded. As to the necessity of maintaining establishments, with a view to watch the conduct of foreign powers, what could be the benefit of interfering with other states, if by that interference our own population were to be loaded with excessive and intolerable burthens? It was impossible that the people of this country could be exposed to the taxation which they now endured, without experiencing a degree of misery, which wisdom would teach us to make every effort to prevent. What was the object of all good government? To make the great mass of the people happy; to give them every enjoyment consistent with their own security. Was the House to be told by the right hon. gentleman, that because our interference in the affairs of Portugal might or might not be incidentally beneficial, government were warranted in keeping up our present immense establishments? If it were fitting to keep them up, let not the right hon. gentleman postpone his explanation. The present was the proper time. The prospects were most gloomy to the merchant, to the agriculturist, and to the manufacturer, whilst in all those branches of industry the labourers were placed in situations of extreme wretchedness. If any proofs of this assertion were wanted, it was only necessary to advert to the general wish that prevailed amongst the labourers, to be banished to some distant country. Every possible relief ought to be afforded to people so situated. Was the House to be drawn aside from this subject, by a declaration made by the right hon. gentleman, that 51 there could not be any reductions in the burthens of the people? Would the country be satisfied with the mere assertion of the right hon. gentleman, that the sufferings of the people would admit of no alleviation? He had observed, that whenever the government saw an opportunity, however distant, of reducing the taxes, they never lost any occasion of blazing forth their intentions to the House. They had made no allusion to any relief from taxation in the present instance, and his experience taught him not to expect any. The government seemed to think that the difficulties and distresses were partial and temporary. So far from being of this opinion, he had every reason to believe that those distresses were general, deep-rooted, and increasing. He would therefore ask, if the House ought not to proceed, without delay, to inquire into the subject. He did not complain of any one thing stated in the Speech. All he complained of was, the omissions. He would not quarrel with one single expression that had fallen from the hon. gentleman who moved the address, but he would enter his protest against the doctrine, that the late war in India could not have been avoided. He maintained, that, with only a little moderation, the war might have been altogether avoided; for we were both the invaders and the aggressors. But it would be found a poor consolation, that the war was unavoidable, if those who thought so reflected, that no war had been ever carried on with greater loss to the country. He would say, that no men had ever conducted themselves with greater bravery, or suffered more in active service, than our troops had done in the Burmese campaigns. But, whilst he acknowledged the gallant conduct of our army, he would deny, that the wisdom of our councils in India was deserving of praise.—He would now request the attention of the House to a most important fact. We had now, for eleven years of peace, been supporting a full war establishment. We were keeping up a large standing army, unequalled in any former period of our history. Our military establishment was much larger than the military force we maintained during the American war, which was considered a war of great extravagance. He would call on the House, if they wished to see any relief afforded to the people—if they wished to see the property of the country protected from the hands of the 52 tax-gatherer—to pledge themselves to an honest and scrupulous revision of the public expenditure. He wished the House to proceed, without any delay, to the examination and revision of every one of those public establishments, which the right hon. gentleman said he would be able to defend. When multitudes were wanting bread, it was not, to say the least of it, courteous in the government to put off the consideration of the complaints of the sufferers to an indefinite period. If gentlemen would revert to the proceedings of the last parliament, they might recollect the anticipations that were held out by the Opposition side of the House, that, by a continued reduction of each head of taxes, they should find the country, after a peace of ten years, prepared, in case of necessity, to vindicate its character, and to defend its rights against all aggression. It was then alleged, that by continuing our war establishments in time of peace we eventually should not be able to act with spirit and independence in our foreign relations. That period had now arrived. We were not at this moment in a situation to treat foreign insults as we ought to have done. It might appear to the right hon. gentleman a mere trifle, that government only exacted, at the present moment, ten millions for the army, or that the aggregate demand upon the country was fifty-nine millions a year. Let the right hon. gentleman look back, and conceive the situation in which the country was placed by his refusing to make those reductions, which ought to have been made in the year 1817, agreeably to the recommendation of the Finance committee. By this retrospect, he would at once see what great and important services he could have rendered to his country, had he stopped the lavish expenditure then going on. In the last nine years, the amount of taxes had been enormous. From 1817 to 1825, the tax-gatherers had collected not less than 531,000,000l. sterling, that was to say, on an average, 59,000,000l. a-year had been taken from the productive industry of the country. The question now was, whether they ought not to stop short, and avert the evils into which this system of extravagance had thrown it? One hundred and forty-two millions had been paid for what was called the peace establishment of the country. To his mind, the cause of all the distresses of the country was so evident, that he was 53 surprised that that class—the agricultural—whose property must so materially suffer, did not see that taxation was the canker-worm—the dry-rot, that undermined their property. This was the evil to which they ought to apply the remedy. The extravagant expenditure of which he complained had not been confined to the army and navy. The civil establishments had averaged more than 26,000,000l. a-year; whilst our debt, on an average, had increased by three millions a-year. It ought to consider whether parliament, in its first Address to the Crown, should not manfully pledge itself to a scrupulous and rigid examination of all the public expenses, with a view to effect every reduction consistent with the safety of the country. The House ought not to be, and the country would not be, led aside from this paramount object, by the high-sounding words of the right hon. gentleman. Good God, what a situation did the country stand in! He would ask any hon. member to name the country where privation, distress, and positive starvation, were equal to those which at present pressed upon the population of this empire. The evil had arrived to such a magnitude, that it endangered the very existence of the state. However exemplary the conduct of the people had been under the cruel circumstances into which they had been thrown it was impossible for the evil to continue much longer. Would government expect the people to be down and starve? The table of the House would be loaded with petitions upon this subject. Some petitioners would pray for banishment—others would pray for any possible relief from the acuteness of their sufferings. Could the House refuse to such people the declaration that it would immediately direct its attention to their wants? If, upon inquiry, it should appear that the present expenditure was proper, he would not object to things remaining as they were; if otherwise, they were in duty bound to relieve the sufferings of those who surrounded them.—He would say, that taxation was not reduced, and that the public establishments were even increased. He would state one instance. The great war expenditure was in the army, navy, and ordnance. A reference to the papers on the table of the House, would show, that these heads of expenditure were brought to the lowest pitch in 1822; agreeably to the wish of the House, and 54 he Address to the Throne. In that year, 1822, the army, navy, and ordnance, amounted to sixteen millions, in round numbers. In 1823, when they had a Speech stating to the House, that great reductions would be made in the estimates—in that very year, those estimates were increased by half a million sterling. In the following year, these estimates were raised to 17,500,000l. In 1825, the same amount was continued; and, in the present year, those very estimates, which ire 1822 amounted to only sixteen millions, were no less than 17,800,000l. being an increase to an amount which ought to induce the House not to let the present moment pass, without expressing their opinion, that it was by taxation that the present evils had been brought on. An hon. friend on his left (Mr. Baring) was frequently introducing the subject of the currency to the House. He would ask that hon. gentleman, and the country gentlemen at large, who it was that had to bear the load of this continued taxation? Let them compare the relative situations of England in 1817 and 1818, after the termination of the war, when their property was of high value, in relation to the currency. He would ask these country gentlemen whether, now that the currency was raised in value by twenty-five per cent, they were able to pay the same amount of taxation which they before paid? He would beg these gentlemen to consider the manner in which they had to discharge their obligations. In 1817, the amount of taxation might be estimated to equal 15,000,000 quarters of corn. They were now called upon to pay 17,000,000 quarters. The actual difference was at least 1,500,000 quarters, and which was to be paid for taxes, in many cases, quite unnecessary and extravagant. He would advise the country gentlemen to look well to their situation, and not to be led astray by false or empty boasting, that the country had been relieved from taxation. When they settle their accounts at the end of the year, they will find themselves much worse off than at the end of former years. Was there a man in that House who could say that the situation of agricultural labourers was to be envied, in comparison to that of other classes? Every class and interest was suffering, and such deep and general evil could not depend, as was pretended, upon a casual cause. The source of the evil 55 was deeply rooted. It was lamentable to see the sufferings of a people that were enlightened by instruction, and placed in a situation to appreciate benefits, or to feel the evils that press upon them. It was afflicting to see such a people raised to pride and the keenness of sensibility, by knowledge and intelligence, and yet pressed down by want and every sort of mortification. This was to be accounted for only by taxation. If no relief could be afforded to them, let them have at least the consolation to feel that the House had done its duty. There was not a merchant, a manufacturer, or an agriculturist, who could deny that property was depreciated. Profits were reduced, if not totally annihilated. He should repeat that, if ministers were not able to give relief to the country, they ought at once to say so. They wished to get over the evil day, and leave the result to the chapter of accidents. The final evil might fall upon their successors. This might be very well for those who calculated solely upon the tenure of office, and viewed the possibility of removal; but it was not so for those whose capital and property were affected by such conduct.—With respect to our foreign relations, he conceived that England had no business to meddle with foreign countries. She had enough to do with her own affairs. She had it in her power to be comfortable and secure within herself, and therefore need not interfere with other countries. The people would not bear to be taxed so enormously, to pursue the present line of foreign policy. With respect to Portugal, the House would not do its duty if it did not inquire whether such conduct ought to be pursued. This being his opinion, he was led to believe that ministers were not aware of the situation in which the country was placed. If they were, it would be impossible for them to speak in so cool a manner of the general distress; nor could they maintain so great an army, merely to cope with the military despots of the continent. He saw in government a disposition to render the military power paramount in England. The institutions of the country were all civil, but the military was tampering with the civil power, and interfering in a manner that ought to be stopped. He spoke not of any individuals, but of the system generally. Ministers had thought proper to congratulate the country, that there existed no apprehensions of a war. If 56 this were so, what necessity was there to keep up a standing army of 86,000 men? If the right hon. Secretary would direct his agents at each foreign port to send him an account of the population and taxes of the country in which he resided, he would find that England stood unequalled in amount of taxation. Every English person, man, woman, and child, paid every year at the rate of 3l. 10s. a head in taxes. In no other country did the people pay half as much. When the French revolution led us into war in 1793, the taxes amounted to only 16,000,000l., and every individual was comfortable in his class. Let gentlemen look at France at the present moment. She was prosperous and happy: every man there had enough, whilst in England it was directly the reverse; scarcely any of the labouring classes had more than the bare means of existence. The rental of England was estimated at 40,000,000l., and more than the rental by one half was extracted from the people.—He would now advert to the Corn-laws. The ministers had promised to meet this subject, and the plan they now proposed was trifling with the people: it was equally an insult to those who supported, and those who opposed the Corn-laws. If the Corn-laws ought not to be maintained, what time could be more proper than the present to alter them? Every man in England looked for that alteration at the present juncture. Every public assembly had agreed on this subject, not as formerly, by divisions, or with difficulty; but each meeting had carried its Address unanimously, for taking these laws into consideration. Landlords, like other people, were bound to take care of their own interests; but, on the other hand, he entreated them to consider, whether it was not material to all connected with them, to have the question decided?—There was another subject on which he had wished to expatiate. There ought, in his opinion, to have been a statement from the Throne, recommending a revision of the whole of the civil law. At present, the process at law was endless, expensive, and most uncertain. Its evils had never been exceeded. Could any people sit down content under such a state of civil law? The criminal law had been, by every body, condemned as severe beyond reason, and in every respect improper to exist in a Christian country. It would be a sad reproach to parliament 57 if some measures were not taken upon this subject. Upon this point, it was his intention to place upon record his opinions, however humble.—One other topic, and he should have done. He meant the state of Ireland. Any man, looking round him, and anxious to select that place upon the globe most subject to misgovernment and abuse, would, at once, select Ireland as the unhappy spot. Taking into consideration the circumstances and situation of that country, one was at a loss where to begin, or what to say. The entire state of things in Ireland called for revision; and he hoped that that revision would be both speedy and effectual. There was a viceroy established in Ireland, which there ought not to be. That office ought to have been removed at the Union, and he hoped it would not be allowed to continue much longer. But the viceroy was not all. There was, in addition, an Irish secretary, who was placed as a check upon the former; and his Majesty's ministers thus succeeded in obtaining that which had been so long the wish of all the nations of Europe—the establishment of a balance of power; nay, after this doctrine had been scouted by other nations, it had, by the wisdom of our government, been transferred to Ireland. While the present system was pursued in Ireland, it was impossible that the people of that country could obtain a full and equal share of those rights and liberties to which, as British subjects, they were entitled. Ministers had not, on the present occasion, advised his Majesty to recommend a single measure, even, of inquiry into the present state of Ireland. It appeared that they had not made up their minds upon that question. But, if they had not made up, or could not make up, their minds upon it, they ought not to stand in the way of others. He was aware that a part of his Majesty's ministers were willing to extend to Ireland the blessings of the British constitution, and thus put an end to the anarchy which at present reigned in that country. Was it to be tolerated, that England should be obliged to keep an army of 22,000 men continually in Ireland, in order to govern and keep her in the situation of a conquered state? This army too, be it remembered, was paid and supported by England. Why not at once take away 15,000 of these 22,000 men? He maintained, that if all the branches of unnecessary expenditure 58 in Ireland were cut off, a saving of no less than three millions might be made. Ireland might then be made a source of profit, instead of being not only a millstone round our necks at present, but a check and impediment hereafter to future exertions. It was the duty of that House to compel ministers to this inquiry; it was their duty to compel them to probe the wound and to apply the remedy. The people of Ireland were led to expect this, from what took place in the last parliament; and he implored the House not to let their expectations be disappointed. Let them not go on experiencing delay after delay, until the bitterness of hope deferred should drive them to the phrenzy of despair. He cautioned government not to go too far in neglecting the complaints and the sufferings of that misgoverned country, but at once to come manfully forward, and grant to them those rights and privileges which the constitution bestowed equally upon all British subjects. By doing this, they would prevent England from being any longer the scoff of Europe. "Where," said the other European nations, "is the boasted equality of England? How dares she to hold herself up as a free and generous nation, while she denies to Ireland an equal participation in her rights and privileges?" It was the duty of parliament to call upon ministers not to delay a single hour the removal of this foul injustice to Ireland, and of this blot upon the English name and character. How could we expect peace and unanimity in Ireland while she was kept in the situation of a military garrison? But let the legislature remove the cause of irritation in that island, and it might also remove the garrison: let equal rights and privileges be given to all classes, and then instead of a discontented and irritated population, we should have a set of loyal and valuable fellow-subjects. It was not, however, to be expected, that without such concessions Ireland could be satisfied. The great mass of the inhabitants of that country could not be satisfied while they were excluded from their birthright as British subjects. And for what? What was their crime? The only one was that of adhering to the religion of their forefathers. This, he contended, was a subject which ought to engage the attention of the new parliament. At all events, he would give them an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon it. Would 59 it be contended, that the system we had pursued, and were still pursuing, towards that unfortunate country, was consistent, with sound policy? He had not heard any man hold such an argument. The system was, he would maintain, unjust: it was decidedly contrary to the dictates of the religion we professed, and therefore he called on the House to join with him in pledging themselves to do to that country what was only an act of common justice. Looking at the state of Ireland, and the condition of part of our country, could any one say that our situation was an envious one?—with famine staring us in the face; with a people divided against each other, and with an enormous military establishment, which might be saved if conciliatory measures were adopted. He did not mean to say that our case was desperate; but it might be rendered so, by retarding measures which would be acts of justice, and which must produce conciliation. Let the legislature act in a straight-forward manner; let them unite the interests of the two countries in reality as well as in name; and by so doing enlist in their support a population with hearts as bold and generous as ever warmed the breasts of men. He implored the House not to give such a population cause to entertain adverse sentiments towards them, by the continuance of measures which must drive them to despair. He had stated his opinions on this subject with warmth; but he had stated them with sincerity. He had spoken what he felt, because he thought it was the duty of the legislature to meet the difficulties of the country boldly, and not to shrink from the important task of endeavouring to find a remedy. It had been suggested to him, that as an Amendment, his resolution must be moved in place of the Address, or part of it; but as there was no part of the Address, from which he dissented, he would move that his own be added at the end of the one already before the House. It was as follows:
§ "That we rejoice with his Majesty in the happy understanding that subsists between his Majesty and Foreign Powers, and confide in the continuance of a peace which it promises for many years to be the interest both of the Sovereigns and the Nations to maintain: and we the more rejoice in this state of the public affairs, because it takes away all ground and pretext for maintaining a large standing army, 60 which we cannot help regarding with extreme jealousy, as being contrary to the spirit of our institutions.
§ "That we should ill discharge the duty we owe to his Majesty, if we did not direct his most serious attention to the present condition of his faithful people, which we are bound to represent as one of grievous suffering and privation, unequalled, perhaps, in this country; and as inconsistent with its peace as with its happiness and prosperity.
§ "That the situation of the country, with an embarrassed trade, a greatly declining-revenue, and an enormous debt, does not warrant the longer continuance of the expense at present incurred in the support of the pensions, sinecures, and the different establishments of his Majesty's government.
§ "That we most respectfully represent to his Majesty, that an excessive taxation, disproportionate to the reduced value of property, and to the diminished return for the capital employed in the land, in manufactures, and in commerce, is a principle cause of the existing distresses; and in order to relieve his Majesty's loyal peaceable and suffering people, his faithful Commons will proceed immediately to the examination and revision of every establishment at home and abroad, from the highest to the lowest, with the view of effecting the largest possible reductions consistent with the security of the commonwealth:
§ "To assure his Majesty that we fully appreciate the progress made by the late parliament in removing restrictions on trade and commerce; but we, at the same time, deeply lament that his Majesty has not been advised to call our immediate attention to the repeal of those injurious laws, which prevent a free trade in corn, so essentially necessary to the sustenance and comfort, of the people, and to the prosperity of the state; and to assure his Majesty, that we will proceed without the least delay to the consideration of that most important subject:
§ "To congratulate his Majesty on the progress made in the last parliament, in the revision of the civil and criminal laws, and to assure his Majesty, that this House will assiduously direct their attention to the further correction of the severity of the criminal laws, and to the revision of a system, in which a great degree of uncertainty exists, as to men's rights, and under which justice can only be obtained at an 61 enormous expense, and with vexatious delay:
§ "To express to his Majesty the necessity of our taking into early consideration the constitution of this House, with a view of rendering it what it ought to be—the real representative of the people, instead of its being, as at present, to a considerable extent, the representative of partial; interests, and of a comparatively small number of individuals:
§ "To express to his Majesty our regret, that his Majesty has not been advised to recommend the state of Ireland to the consideration of this House; and to assure his Majesty that of all the subjects of our deepest interest, there is none we have more at heart than the oppressed and alarming condition of the Irish nation: excluded from their rights as British subjects, for no other crime than an adherence to the worship of their fathers, their feelings are excited and exasperated; and, while the majority of the people are stigmatized and degraded for their religion, the nation enjoys neither mutual confidence nor domestic quiet; and must continue in a state of disaffection, discord, and anarchy, until their grievances are redressed:
§ "That your faithful Commons further regard with the most serious apprehension, the continuance of a policy which tends to produce in the Irish people a feeling of alienation from the English government, inconsistent with that unity of interest which should subsist in an united kingdom; and this House will, therefore, take into immediate consideration the best means for speedily redressing their grievances, as the only effectual mode of conciliating their affections, and inseparably cementing the union of the two countries:
§ "To thank his Majesty for having been graciously pleased to call Parliament together at this early period; that with these important labours and duties in contemplation, we may have time to make the requisite inquiries into all the estimates before the usual time of voting the supplies of the year."
member for Yorkshire, rose to second the amendment. He observed, that he had no ambition to trespass on the indulgence of the House, by going into all the topics introduced into the amendment moved by the hon. member for Aberdeen, but he begged to call the attention of the House to the 62 extraordinary situation in which the country was now placed—a situation, which, in his opinion, required their immediate and particular consideration. We had now been, for a considerable period, in the enjoyment of a profound peace, when we had a right to expect a diminution of the country's burthens, and an increase of general happiness and prosperity; and yet, in his own neighbourhood, the working classes of society were reduced to the most severe and unequalled degree of want and suffering: they were subject to the greatest privations and were in want even of the common necessaries of life: and yet the nation was subjected to a scarcely supportable burthen of taxation. That taxation was, it was true, reduced a little in nominal amount; but, at no time was it greater in value, or more severely felt; and this, too, at a period when the higher ranks were relieving themselves from the pressure of taxation, by a monopoly of the greatest necessary of life; he meant, that of wheat; a monopoly which must injure and press upon the great bulk of the nation. He was sure he was expressing the almost unanimous opinion of the great county which he had the honour to represent, when he stated, that they wished for a revision of the Corn-laws, and were anxious that the House should take the subject into its immediate consideration. The distress and deprivations existing in the manufacturing districts were at this moment very great; and he seconded the motion of his hon. friend with the utmost sincerity, as he considered the suggestions which it contained were most suitable to the present occasion, and merited the utmost attention and consideration from the new parliament.
The original Address, together with the addition of the amendment having been read at length, and put by the Speaker,
expressed his regret at finding, by the King's Speech, that ministers had not advised his Majesty to recommend any inquiry into, or remedy for, the distresses which were, upon all hands admitted to exist in the country. It had, indeed, been stated by the right hon. secretary, that it was the intention of ministers to propose a permanent law with respect to the introduction of corn, which law would, at a future period, be brought under discussion. But he would ask the House, whether, after this meeting, they ought to separate without giving the 63 country a pledge of their intention to do something upon the important point touched upon by his hon. friend; and whether they were not the more bound to do this, because of that great subject having been, he must say, most improperly postponed last session. The right hon. gentleman opposite had, he thought, committed himself, as far as man could without a positive pledge, that this question should have been discussed in the last parliament; and yet the session had passed away without any proposition of the kind being laid before the House. It was obvious that the law could not be allowed to remain in its present very unsatisfactory state. He had last year voted with the right hon. gentleman for the repeal of prohibitory duties, and for allowing the free export and import of articles subject only to certain fixed duties; and he had asked then, why corn should have been exempted, and be the only article subjected to a prohibitory duty? And had not, he would ask, the public a right to complain that this subject had not been brought on for discussion before? He had fully supported the measures which relaxed the system of prohibitory duties, but he thought that they ought to have been the last, and not the first. The first article from the import of which the prohibitory duties should have been removed was that which constituted a necessary of life. They were told that this subject was to be introduced; but what guarantee had they that it would be brought forward? The right hon. Secretary had given a pledge to that effect, and he felt glad that they had his pledge, but the pledge ought to have been in the Speech from the throne. It had also been stated, that; taxation would be reduced; but that was a pledge which was given every session, without being productive of much reduction of expenditure. If any reduction were really intended, it ought to have been noticed in the Speech from the throne, from which quarter the proposition would have been graciously received; but in that Speech not a word was said about reduction. In fact, it was in that, and many other respects, most unsatisfactorily deficient. It was to have been expected that, at the opening of the first session of a new parliament, the Speech from the throne would have alluded to some of the leading topics which were to become the subject of discussion; but, instead of that, 64 it was silent upon all the topics which were likely to be brought forward. Under these circumstances, he thought it was the duty of the House to support the Amendment moved by his hon. friend. He would ask any hon. member, whether he could, on retiring from the House, say he had faithfully performed his duty to his constituents, if he refused to support the addition now proposed? The disease under which the country laboured was admitted; and yet not a word was said about the remedy. If the remedy was not proposed in the amendment, they had at least a means of coming at it by the inquiries to which the House was there pledged; for he would contend, that if all the topics there mentioned were gone into, the result would be most advantageous for the country. Considering the divided state of the cabinet on that subject, he was not surprised that the state of Ireland was not noticed in the Speech; but still he must lament that that large arm of the empire should be almost paralysed by the system practised towards it; for he could not but believe that a state of anarchy must be the result of a continuance in such measures. Under these circumstances, he did not think he should perform his duty if he did not support the amendment; and therefore he would vote for it with pleasure, for he never heard a Speech from the throne less satisfactory, or which would lead the public to expect less. They were told that the condition of the people was improving; but the great disease under which they laboured was taxation, and a reduction of expenditure would be the only cure. Yet not a word was said of any prospective reduction. They had been repeatedly told, that the country had been relieved from taxation to the annual amount of 20,000,000l. This he most positively denied. The assertion was incapable of proof. Suppose, for a moment, that the amount of our taxes in time of war was 70,000,000l., what, he would ask, was the currency in which that amount of taxation was paid? The taxes were paid in a currency, the value of which a resolution of the then chancellor of the Exchequer at once stamped and regulated; for that right hon. gentleman declared, in 1811, that a one-pound note and a shilling were worth a metallic guinea, whereas the metallic guinea was at that time selling for 27s. or 28s.; so that, in point of fact, the one-pound note was 65 worth no more than 15s., and, therefore, for every one-pound note extracted from the pocket of each individual, he paid no more than 15s. taxes. How, then, could it be said that 20,000,000l. had been taken off, when we were now paying 20s. for each pound of taxes; no matter whether we paid in paper or in a metallic currency? So that 60,000,000l. of taxes of this time would exceed 72,000,000l. during the war. These were subjects which were unpleasant to some gentlemen to hear, but their explanation was of the greatest importance to the country. In the most prosperous state of a nation's affairs a reduction of all unnecessary expenditure was requisite. How much more necessary was it, in a period of distress and privation like the present? If the original Address was carried, no doubt parliament would, in a few days, be adjourned over the holidays—ministers merely taking a grant of perhaps 10,000,000l. on the estimates, which would be submitted to them at a future period. But, if they carried the amendment of his hon. friend, they might go on sitting, and thus they would have time to examine the estimates minutely before they granted a single vote. By adopting this course, they would also avoid the charge so frequently made against them by ministers; namely, that of having advanced money on account of the estimates for the public service, and then objected to its application. For himself, he was determined to resist any grant, on account or otherwise, until he had submitted to the House the motions which he intended to make for the reduction of taxation, before any of the estimates were voted.
§ Mr. Alexander Dawson,
member for Louth, said, that though he fully agreed with many of the points contained in the gracious Speech which the House had that day heard delivered from the throne, he was, as an Irish member, obliged to deplore the omission of one subject which he conceived ought to have been mentioned in it, and that was the present state of Ireland. He fully agreed in all that had been said by the hon. mover and seconder of the Address, respecting the sympathy which his Majesty felt for the distresses of the people of England; but, at the same time that he did this, he could not but regret that the sympathy of his Majesty had not been extended to his people in Ireland. He conceived that it was the bounden 66 duty of ministers, who must from their situation be acquainted with the condition of Ireland, to have informed his Majesty, and to have advised his Majesty to inform the House, that the present state of Ireland called for the attention of the legislature as forcibly as the distresses of Manchester and the other manufacturing towns of England. It was true that in Ireland the people did not feel so severely the deficiency of the necessaries of life, but then they felt distress of another description, which pervaded all ranks of society, and wrung the bosom of every reflecting man in Ireland. There existed in that unfortunate country an alienation of feeling, an estrangement of man from man, which rendered it disagreeable to live in Ireland. In vain would English capital flow into it; in vain would schemes; of amelioration be projected and tried; as long as one class of its inhabitants was busied in inquiring into the religion of the other. That consideration made him feel, that though the pecuniary distresses of the people of England were a proper subject for legislative interference, the other distresses of the people of Ireland were not a whit less deserving the notice of parliament. It was not enough for ministers to get up in their places and say, that any individual member might bring the state of Ireland under the consideration of the House; for any man, who had the least parliamentary experience, must know, that no important practical measure had any chance of success, unless it came to the House recommended from the throne, or supported by the influence of his Majesty's ministers. It was their duty to propose specific remedies, when specific grievances forced themselves on the attention of the public. It had been said, that no ministers had greater skill in reconciling jarring interests than those who at present directed his Majesty's councils; and, that they had shown that skill eminently in their management of the clashing interests of Portugal. He wished to God they would give the country a specimen of it, in reconciling the clashing interests which existed in Ireland. He entreated the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs to use his unrivalled talents for conciliation in pacifying that portion of the British empire situated so near home, and so closely connected with the well being of England. He was sorry to say that, since his arrival in Eng- 67 land—and he had not been more than two or three days in London—he had seen accounts in the newspapers stating, that the different parties in Ireland were anxious to come to open war. He had seen accounts, in which it was declared, that one party had said, that at Armagh or some other place, "We wish for a civil war, we wish our opponents to take up arms, for we know that if they did, we could crush them," whilst the other party was equally ready to reply, "We, too, wish to have a little bloodshed; for we know that we could put down our antagonists: we do not object to war, but to the time of waging it; that time has not yet arrived; it will, however, arrive soon; therefore, we advise you to mind what you do." Such was the sum and substance of the latest accounts from Ireland; and being so, he would ask the House, whether ministers ought to shut their eyes to it, and adopt mere temporary expedients for the safety of the empire, overlooking the great principle of all wise statesmen; namely, that of uniting man to man in society, and making each individual labour, not only for his own 'private advantage but for that of the public at large? He contended, that the discontents now prevailing in Ireland ought to be submitted to the consideration of parliament, and that if ministers were not provided with specific measures to allay them, they ought to recommend to parliament an immediate investigation into their origin, nature, and extent.—Much had been said, in the course of the debate, about economy. He allowed economy to be a virtue; but still it was necessary that the dignity, as well as the safety, of the government should be maintained. There were many ways, however, of consulting economy, without at all injuring either the safety or the dignity of the government; and one of them was by making the country governed happy, and by rendering its inhabitants contented with their institutions. If such a plan were adopted towards Ireland, the people of England might get rid of a great part of the enormous expenditure they incurred, in supporting a large military establishment: they might get rid of at least 15,000 troops, the maintenance of which was not only a heavy incumbrance on their resources, but a deep disgrace of their national character; for amongst a free people every man ought to be ready to act as constable without 68 having any occasion to call in a man in a red coat to assist and defend him. The hon. gentleman next proceeded to contend, that there were not only considerations arising out of the internal condition of England and Ireland, but also considerations derivable from the external circumstances and condition of foreign powers, which required the House to enter into an immediate investigation of the religious differences in Ireland. Let them look around at the other nations of the world, and see how they had disposed of their religious disputes. Let them look first of all at America. There had been some quarrelling on religious grounds among the inhabitants of that country, but it had never proceeded to the length of murder, firing, assassination, and all the other dreadful evils which had been perpetrated in Ireland. Those quarrels were now happily appeased; for every man in that country had been recently placed upon an equality as to political rights. That was the plain and simple state of the case; and he defied any one to deny it. It had been said, that America was a new country, and that the institutions which were most beneficial there were not, on that account, to be deemed equally applicable here. The observation might be true; but he could hardly suppose that what was in good theory, and was also advantageous when reduced into practice, was not applicable in every country under Heaven. Passing, however, from America, let them look at what had occurred in France. At the present moment there were no religious disputes there. He allowed that shortly after the Bourbons were restored, there had been some religious excesses in the south of France, but they were soon put down, and nothing of the kind had been heard of since. And why? Because there was in France no distinction about the admission of persons to civil offices founded on the difference of religious creeds. France, Catholic France, had not only done that, but she had gone further; and while she afforded a competent maintenance to her Catholic clergy, she had also afforded a sufficient revenue for her support of the Protestant clergy in her empire. That fact shewed most clearly that there was nothing in Catholicism itself which would prevent its followers from living in perfect harmony with their Protestant fellow subjects. From France he would go to the Nether- 69 lands, and there we might see an example which was worthy of our attention. The king of the Netherlands, little more than three weeks since, had opened his parliament with a Speech, in a manner somewhat similar to that in which our gracious sovereign had, this day, addressed the new parliament here, and, in that Speech, the king of the Netherlands congratulated them, that all religious dissentions in his kingdom were at an end, owing to some communications which had recently taken place between the church of the Netherlands and the See of Rome; and had further stated, that, in his dominions, no difference should be suffered to exist, in any manner, between his Catholic and Protestant subjects. How long was it possible that this country could look on these examples with indifference? The hon. seconder of the Address had agreed, that the case of the Catholics deserved consideration, but he had also expressed his fear of having anything further done, lest it should destroy the establishment of the Church of England. If the concessions were likely to produce such an effect, he was sure there was not one man in that House who would approve them; but he contended, that they would not injure either church or state; and, indeed, if the church were founded, as he believed it to be, upon the rock of truth, he should like to know how it could be injured by them. If, then, the concessions were likely to do any injury to the church, it must be an injury to the temporalities of the church. Now, those temporalities were in the hands of the clergy, and from all that he had ever heard of them, they were not a class of men likely; to part with them without a struggle. The Catholics of Ireland did not ask for any share of those temporalities; all they; asked for was, to be put upon an equality with their Protestant brethren. How that could, by possibility, harm the temporalities of the church, no man could see, except the clergy, who, somehow or other, had been distinguished in all ages by a peculiar sensitiveness to every thing which seemed to affect their interests. He trusted that, before the end of the present session, it would be proved, to the satisfaction of the hon. seconder of the Address, that the privileges asked by the Catholics could be granted to them, and not only to them, but to all classes of Dissenters [loud cries of "hear"] without any danger to church or state, or to the 70 temporalities of either.—He hoped he had now made out a case sufficient to prove that his Majesty's Speech ought to have alluded to the state of Ireland, not only on account of its internal, but also on account of external circumstances. With respect to the Corn-laws, he had only to observe, that the present system had been proved to be prejudicial, by the necessity which had compelled ministers to come-forward with a practical measure, in direct contravention of the existing law. He did not approve of the postponement of the discussion upon them; because he thought that ministers ought to have considered the question thoroughly during the late vacation; especially as they had sent out agents to different parts of Europe to collect every kind of information upon the subject. The hon. gentleman sat down amidst loud cheering, with thanking the House for the indulgence with which they had attended to his observations.
§ Mr. Western
said, that, with all the respect which he felt for his hon. friend, the member for Aberdeen, it was impossible for him to come at once to a sweeping condemnation of the whole system of Corn-laws, on which the country had so long acted. He trusted that, whenever the House entered upon the discussion of those laws, it would do so with calmness and temperance; for upon no subject was it more necessary that they should set an example of calmness and temperance to the public. He conceived his hon. friend to be egregiously mistaken in supposing that the higher classes of the country, and more especially the landholders, were anxious to shift the burthens of taxation from their own shoulders to those of their poorer fellow-subjects. In entertaining such a supposition, his hon. friend had been led astray by prejudices which he must be permitted to call illiberal. For his own part, he could not help wishing that it had been convenient for the House to go forthwith into the discussion of the Corn-laws; and therefore he agreed with that part of the amendment which deprecated the postponement of that important question. He was likewise of opinion, that the House ought to give to the public a more formal pledge than usual, that it would enter without delay into the retrenchment of all unnecessary expenditure; but he would not go the length of his hon. friend in reducing our establish- 71 ments so low as to disable us from defending our old ally, Portugal, if she were assailed from any quarter. He did not think it wise to disunite the interest of England entirely from that of the continent, nor to lessen that influence which we ought to exercise upon it, and which we had exercised so beneficially to the rights and independence of the various nations of Europe. He conceived that the House was bound to institute an inquiry into the cause of the distress which at present pervaded the commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural, classes of the community; for, by so doing, we should be enabled to guard against the recurrence of it. The House was also bound to inquire into the state of Ireland. It was unnecessary for him to say a word upon that subject, as it had been pressed most ably upon the House by the hon. gentleman who had just addressed it with so much effect. His hon. friend had referred to the present state of the currency. Had he been blessed with health and strength, he would beyond doubt have brought that subject once again before the consideration of parliament; for, in his opinion, whatever calamities had surrounded us for some time past, and were surrounding us still, until some such steps were taken, the country would never be free from those alternations of high and low prices which it had been subject to since the conclusion of the peace in 1815. He contended, that it was the vicious state of the currency that rendered the taxes so intolerable. They were paid in a shape which made them twice the amount in value, of what they were when first imposed. If the act of 1819 had been carried into complete operation, and had not been frittered away by subsequent enactments, the commerce of the country would have been overwhelmed by the duties placed upon it, and the taxes could not have been paid. If the country merely had to pay the taxes in the same amount of value with that in which they had been imposed, it would have been in as proud and palmy a state of prosperity, as it had ever enjoyed at any antecedent period. If we were paying our taxes in the standard of the last ten years of the war, we should feel them, he would not say light as air, but so light that no interest of the country could be at all affected by them. In conclusion he said, that he was anxious to support the amendment, 72 but he could not do so unless some alteration were made in a particular part of it. He did not know whether he should not move an amendment upon the amendment.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, he would only trouble the House with a few observations; but it did appear to him, that there was a total omission in the Speech from the throne of every subject which it ought to have contained. He contended that the distress of the country at the present time was as great as that which it had suffered at the worst period of the war, and argued therefrom, that it was particularly necessary to enter into an immediate consideration of the corn question. He believed it would not be denied, that during the war the value of land had risen in value full one-half, if not two-thirds; that every species of commodity had risen in a similar manner; and that the great inconvenience and distress which had been felt during its continuance, arose from the price of labour not keeping pace with the price of commodities. Now he would ask, whether it was reasonable, that, when there was a reduction in every article except that of food, when ministers were reducing the five per cents to four per cents, and playing other tricks with the currency, the House should uphold laws, which had no other object than to keep up the price of land and of the productions of the land? He contended, that the present system of Corn-laws, upheld the land full forty per cent, and thereby created distress, and its general concomitant, dissatisfaction, throughout the country, for who could endure with patience that his own property should be depreciated in order to uphold that of the landholder? He maintained, that ministers ought to have taken notice of the spirit of gambling and speculation which prevailed during the last year, and which had filled the Gazette with more bankruptcies than any other cause. The bubbles in 1720 had often been referred to, as forming a parallel to those which had recently exploded; but he contended, that the parallel was by no means a just one, as there had been a loss upon one scheme alone in the last year, which was more than equal to all the losses put together, upon all the schemes which were devised in 1720. No measures, however, had been taken to punish the fraudulent projectors of these ruinous 73 schemes. In the year 1720, a proclamation was issued by the Crown, and subsequently a bill was passed by parliament, for the punishment of those who had offended, and for the prevention of such offences in future. In the Address agreed to on that occasion, the House expressly pledged itself to apply its most strenuous efforts, with firmness and resolution, to discover and redress those manifold grievances. A vote was then passed by that House, declaring, that it would not only inquire into those great public nuisances, but also that it would devise proper means for the due punishment of their authors and abettors. He said this, because he thought the House ought, in the present instance, to feel it to be a duty imperatively imposed on it to institute a similar inquiry; and if such an inquiry were directed, he believed he could produce such evidence of the enormity of many of these speculations—of the ill effects which had flowed from them throughout the country—of the gambling, the loss, and the ruin, to which they had given rise—as would induce the House to take some decisive steps, with respect to those who had projected and supported them. This, he was sure, he should be enabled to do, if the House thought proper to investigate the subject. He was sorry to say, that in touching on this question he felt a great deal of difficulty. And why? Because the names of many honourable members of that House—the names of several gentlemen who had been long esteemed and respected—were mixed up with some of those transactions. But, however blameable they might be for want of foresight—however blameable they might be for rashly lending their names to such speculations—he hoped they would be enabled to get rid of any charge connected with the fraud and trickery by which some of these schemes were characterized. And here he felt it right to declare, with respect to one individual, an honourable member of that House, that if it were proposed again to place him in the situation which he had recently held, he, for one, would call upon him for a full and satisfactory explanation of his conduct, with respect to some of the transactions to which he had alluded, before he would give that hon. gentleman his vote for again performing the duties of that situation.
§ Mr. Brogden
rose, but, from the buz 74 which pervaded the House, his earlier observations were not audible. As the hon. alderman had so pointedly alluded to him, he felt it necessary to say, that he had unfortunately become connected with some of those speculations to which the hon. alderman had referred—speculations which, he conceived, had grown out of the excessive circulation of the country, the small value of money, and the low rate of interest. Some of these, he believed, were of a beneficial nature, and some, he thought, were connected with circumstances of a nefarious description. With one of the latter kind—the Arigna Mining company—he was undoubtedly connected—but it should not be forgotten, that he was not the projector of that plan. He was induced to join it from the representations of persons in whose integrity he placed the highest confidence. This fact he was prepared to prove. When complaints were made as to certain proceedings of the company, he, as one of the directors, consulted with the rest, as to the course to be pursued. The consequence was, that a committee was immediately appointed—a committee of active and intelligent persons, who well understood the questions that were to be referred to it—for the purpose of investigating all the facts. The points brought forward were examined most strictly; and the result was, that he received from that committee the most positive testimonials of his complete innocence. The proceedings of that committee were laid before a general meeting; and by that general meeting the report of the committee was unanimously confirmed. There was, subsequently, another meeting called, for the purpose of removing those directors who appeared to have been concerned in the objectionable part of this transaction; and the result of that meeting was, to confirm, almost unanimously, the former proceedings with respect to him. He said "almost unanimously," because some few individuals opposed a resolution which exculpated him, while it inculpated those who held up their hands against it. The obnoxious directors were removed accordingly; there being a minority of only seven persons against the general resolution to which he had referred. It was afterwards found that there was some irregularity in this proceeding, which, it was supposed, might occasion it to be set aside; and another general meeting 75 was therefore convened. At that meeting, he was the object of much, and he must say, of undeserved, obloquy and abuse; but still the result of this last meeting was, to give full effect to the former resolution. The directors, whose conduct was impugned, were rejected; others were appointed in their room; and he (Mr. Brogden) was placed in the chair of that company. The proceedings had given him so much disgust, had so harassed his mind and wounded his feelings, that it was much against his will that he undertook the situation. He did so, however, in justice to his own character; because he wished to prove to the world, that he possessed the confidence which ever belonged to innocence. With respect to the company itself, he must say that it was not a bubble. He never viewed it as such. There was a rage at the time for companies; and undoubtedly he might have experienced something of the prevalent feeling. He had been engaged in several of those companies; and, he would say, that with one or two exceptions—(that of the Strand-bridge, for instance)—they had all been beneficial, not only to the public but to the proprietors. With respect to the Strand-bridge, it should be observed, that he was not the original projector of that speculation. He came into it several years alter it was undertaken, and any loss connected with it was, in no degree, attributable to him. He spoke warmly on this subject, because he could not but feel—and it would be ridiculous in him if he pretended not to be aware of the fact—that, on the first day of the session, a plain allusion was made to him by a gallant officer (sir Joseph Yorke). He regretted the way in which that hon. and gallant officer, while remarking on the compliments which had been paid to the Speaker, had thought proper to allude to him. That hon. and gallant member had been, as well as himself, a member of that House for many years; and from the intercourse of civility which had taken place between them, he was rather unprepared for such an observation. He was not hypocritical enough to say that he joined the speculations that had been referred to without indulging any hope of deriving benefit from them; but he could most sincerely declare, that he never was influenced by any base or improper feeling. He had belonged to the West India Dock company, and to many other companies of 76 wealth and importance; and he must say, that it was only in these latter days that such speculations were discountenanced—that such sweeping odium was thrown on joint-stock companies. He called on the House to mark the advantages which the country had derived from such associations. He would argue, with confidence, that the empire had been much benefitted by them. Let them look to the East India company, let them look to the Bank, let them look to their numerous: bridges and canals, and then decide upon this point. All these were joint-stock; companies, and were most beneficial to the country. He admitted, that a great many most absurd and nefarious schemes had recently been set on foot; but he: denied that those to which he belonged were visionary. He had been charged with having connection with a great number of companies; but some of them—the Russia company, for instance—had existed since the time of queen Mary. When he was elected the chairman of the committees of that House, he was a young man, and he felt that the distinction was a proud one. Now, when his conduct was impugned, when his character was at stake, he felt it due to himself not to shrink from, but to court investigation; and he must say, when he found it reported that the worthy alderman had elsewhere accused him with having improperly possessed himself of thousands of pounds, that it was a direct and positive falsehood [Cries of order].
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, it was impossible for him to sit silently under such gross personalities.
§ The Speaker
dared to say, that the offensive words were not intended, but had escaped from the hon. member in the heat of discussion.
§ Mr. Brogden
begged pardon of the Speaker and of the House, if he had inadvertently been guilty of a breach of order. But he must say, that he saw it reported in a public newspaper, as part of the speech of the hon. alderman, that he had pocketed thousands of pounds, without any inquiry or investigation. He did not impute this observation to the hon. alderman. It might have been an exaggeration; but, as he had seen the statement, he thought that he was bound to repel it. The greatest prejudice had been excited against him through the medium of the public papers; and, therefore, he called 77 for full, but calm and deliberate, inquiry. He begged pardon of the House if he had said any thing improper; but his feelings had been so harassed during the past year, so many malicious statements had been sent abroad, that, as an innocent man, he could not avoid calling for justice loudly and warmly. After the animadversion of the hon. alderman, he felt himself called on to trespass a little longer on the attention of the House. He begged again to draw their attention to the circumstances connected with the Arigna company, because they were infinitely important to his justification. At the time when certain proceedings of the directors attracted the notice of the proprietors, a committee was, as he had said before, appointed for the purpose of investigation. That intelligent committee met, and they proceeded, as they were instructed, to inquire into the whole of the transactions of the society. The report which was made by them on his conduct, he would take the liberty of reading, in opposition to the calumnies that had been sent forth—that report, it should be recollected, being agreed to by the most competent tribunal that could be selected for the examination of his conduct. He conceived it was the most competent tribunal, because it was composed of persons who were thoroughly conversant with all the affairs of the company. Their report was most conclusive in his favour: it was subsequently adopted by the proprietors at large; and the same persons, after the real delinquents were removed, and new directors appointed, called upon him to fill the office of chairman. He thanked the worthy alderman for having given him an opportunity of making this statement; and he would take the liberty of reading the report to which he had alluded, for the information of the House. There were, even now, proceedings in Chancery with respect to this company; and the very first notice he received of them was through the solicitor, who stated, that though he was included in them, yet he was not at all included in the imputed guilt. He would now read the report of the committee, which was afterwards adopted by the proprietors. [Mr. Brogden here read a report from the committee of the Arigna Coal and Iron Company, No. 11, Throgmorton-street, February 2, 1826, in which they state, that Mr. Brogden has "throughout the whole of these 78 proceedings, acted with strict honour and integrity."] In addition to that exculpatory document, he had the consolatory testimony of the chairman of that committee, that up to the month of July, he (Mr. Brogden) never was cognizant of the proceedings of the accused parties. The very day notice was received of those proceedings he did all in his power to convene a meeting of the proprietors, to consider of the conduct of those parties—that those who were really innocent might be distinguished from those who might be guilty. Of his own integrity and innocence he was conscious; and, up to the time when the disclosure was made, he knew nothing of the conduct of those persons. For two parliaments he had had the honour of filling the situation of chairman of committees in that House. It was a situation of great labour, and not of that high dignity to which gentlemen were now disposed to raise it. It required great and laborious exertion. He had endeavoured, to the utmost of his power, to perform his duty, and to perform it with zeal and impartiality. During those two parliaments he had never absented himself from the performance of his duties. He had attended in his place early and late: he believed he had acquired the confidence of the House by his assiduity; and he could most sincerely and conscientiously state, that he had never, at any time, done aught to deprive him of that confidence. He thanked the House for the attention that had been paid to him; and felt perfectly convinced, that if his conduct were brought before it, he could effectually clear his character from every imputation. He was placed in a most peculiar situation; but he would not act like some of those who preferred complaints—he would not inculpate, persons who were absent—he would not attack men who could not defend themselves. He hoped some opportunity would be afforded, where witnesses might be examined, and those who brought charges might be fairly confronted with the accused. He trusted that that justice which was due to every person, of every degree, in this country, would not be refused to individuals against whom many attempts had been made to excite public prejudice, but that their defence would be heard before they were condemned. His conduct, he repeated, had been investigated and approved by the most compe- 79 tent tribunals, first, by a committee, and next, by the whole body of proprietors. That some most nefarious transactions had taken place, he admitted; but he was not privy to them. He had been acquitted by the unanimous votes of the committee, and by nearly the unanimous votes of four or five general meetings of the Arigna Company; and, finally, instead of being condemned, he had been absolutely placed in the chair of that company.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
begged to assure the hon. member, that the words attributed to him were not used, neither did he mean to allude particularly to those transactions to which the hon. member had referred. He only meant to say, that various transactions had taken place with respect to different companies with which the hon. member was connected, that, in his opinion, called for the animadversion of that House; and, if he could vindicate himself from them, no man would rejoice more sincerely than he would do. He had known the hon. member, though not intimately, for several years; and in making those observations he certainly was not actuated by any thing like personal hostility towards him.
§ Mr. Brogden
said, he was conscious that the words which he quoted from the papers were not true. They were, however, attributed to the worthy alderman, and he therefore felt it necessary to notice them.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
said, he believed that such a debate had never before arisen on the question of voting an Address in answer to a King's Speech. As, however, he had been alluded to by the hon. member, he felt it necessary to say a word in explanation. When he heard, on a former evening, the right hon. the Speaker described as possessing all the cardinal virtues,—as having, in fact, as many virtues as there were points of the compass—surely it was not strange for him to express a wish, that the other officers of the House should manifest equal purity and integrity. The plain charge brought against the hon. gentleman was this—that he, as a director of the Arigna Company, purchased from a man, named Flattery (a very flattering name) certain mines, full of iron and coal—with which valuable commodities Ireland was to be supplied—for the sum of 10,000l., while the company was charged 25,000l., by which means 15,000l. were pocketed 80 amongst a few individuals; that of this sum the hon. member received 1,047l.; that, being asked to refund it, he refused, and actually kept it at the present moment.
§ Mr. Brogden
admitted, that certain members of the company did act as the gallant officer had stated. Undoubtedly, an agreement was entered into that 25,000l. should be charged to the company as the price of those works, for which only 10,000l. had been paid. Of that circumstance, he, however, was wholly ignorant. He was first requested to belong to that company in September, 1824, when he had himself a small mining property of his own in Wales. He went down to his place there, and while in that country he received a letter from London, relative to the new company. He desired to have nothing to do with it; but, as reference was given to a person who was competent to give a character of the property, and as he was informed, that that person was in the neighbourhood, he applied to him on the subject. That individual gave to him such a flattering account of the project, that he was induced, in an evil moment, to change his mind. He opened the letter which he had written declining the offer, and returned a different answer. This was in the month of September, and he heard no more of the matter till the January following, when he learned that he had been elected a director. He then found, that 25,000l. had been stated before a meeting as having been paid for the property, and he saw the bond or instrument, with a regular stamp, for 25,000l. It was, therefore, utterly impossible for him to suspect any such transaction as that which had really taken place; and the very day, it was developed (and it was only done when Mr. Flattery threatened to impeach the conduct of others), he, as he had before stated, called a meeting of the directors, and required of them to state the true nature of the transaction. This they refused; and he, on the same day, went to other proprietors, and stated all that he had done. Mr. Bent also declared what had occurred. This took place in the month of July, and not till then was a discovery made of the proceedings which occurred in the preceding October. He was originally asked to take a hundred shares; and, full of the conviction that the speculation was a good one, he requested a second hundred. These were granted; and he fully believed that the sum paid to him 81 arose from those hundred shares, and was not abstracted from the money fraudulently procured. He had been absolved from any knowledge of the transaction. He never suspected it—he never could have suspected it. He called on the proprietors to hold a general meeting at the London Tavern, and he was there publicly exculpated. In the court of Chancery he had sworn to the truth of this statement; and those who instituted the suit had not dared to say that it was not true. They had not dared to assert that he was privy to the abstraction of this 15,000l., or that he was, in the most remote degree, connected with it [hear].
member for Kircud-bright, wished to bring the House back to the real question in debate. In his opinion, the Address, which was so ably and eloquently moved and seconded, was not objectionable; and that ground was, he thought, sufficient to enable them to say that they agreed to it. When the topics adverted to in it were unobjectionable, he would not oppose it on account of certain omissions; especially after the assurance of the right hon. Secretary of State, that the question of the Corn-laws would be deliberately considered, and that the still more important question, which involved the happiness and prosperity of Ireland, and also of England, would receive the same serious attention. He would now shortly state why he must withhold his assent from the amendment of the hon. member for Aberdeen, to whom the country was greatly indebted. He withheld that assent, because the amendment involved a great many topics which he was not prepared—neither could the House be prepared—to discuss at so short a notice. They could not pledge themselves on the moment to come to a decision on five of the most important questions that were over submitted to a British parliament. These subjects were, that the taxes should be reduced; that the expenditure should be lessened; that the Corn-laws should be abolished; that Catholic emancipation should be granted; and that there should be a contraction of sinecures and pensions. When, at the proper time, those questions came regularly before the House, he should not be deterred, by any consequences, from avowing his opinion, and voting according to the dictates of his judgment; but it was impossible for him to entertain them now. With respect to one of those subjects, with 82 reference to which an hon. member had made a most forcible and touching appeal to the House, he certainly was prepared to give an opinion. That opinion was, that no civil disability should be attached to spiritual belief; that it was the general principle that ought to be pursued; and such was the opinion which he had formed. But could he dare to say, without mature deliberation, that the present system of the Corn-laws must he altered? He declared that, if called on, he should think, as an honest member of parliament, that he was not in a condition to support such a proposition. It would require long and painful investigation before that question could be decided. Indeed, he was not prepared for a free importation of grain, even with a rate of duty as the laws at present stood, although his opinion rather inclined that way. Subjects of this nature could only be understood by long discussion and serious attention; and therefore he was not prepared to vote on them.
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, that he hoped the question relating to the Corn-laws would be considered by the House, not as it affected particular interests, but with a view to the general welfare of the empire; and he was also anxious that the earliest opportunity possible should be taken of discussing and setting it at rest, as the deferring it would only contribute to keep alive animosities which unfortunately existed between two parties in the country, who fancied that their interests respecting it were diametrically opposed to each other. He had great pleasure in expressing his approbation of the speech which had been delivered by the hon. gentleman who had moved the Address. It gave the most undoubted proof of his ability and his liberal sentiments, and was at once an honour to his heart and his head. That hon. gentleman had divided the subject into four distinct topics; and, as he himself conceived that those topics were the most important which could at present be offered for the consideration of the House, he would follow that example. With regard to the first—the indemnity to be granted to ministers for their admission of foreign oats—it was a matter which could admit of no discussion, as it was not possible that two opinions could be entertained respecting the propriety of a measure so evidently beneficial, and, indeed, so absolutely necessary for the 83 preservation of the country. With regard to the second—that of the Indian war—whatever difference of opinion there might be respecting the origin of this war, there could be no doubt either as to the merits of the troops who were engaged in it, or as to the propriety of its happy cessation. He now came to the third point, which, he must confess, interested him still more than either of the former—this was, our foreign relations, which were intimately connected with the dignity, the independence, and the security of the empire. The right hon. Secretary had justly told the House, that this was a most important subject for consideration; inasmuch as it was essentially connected with the establishments of the country, and must have a great influence upon the measures to be submitted to the House. The hon. member for Montrose took a different view of the question. He thought, that as this country was an island, it had nothing to do with foreign relations. He (sir R. Wilson), however, was of opinion, that no consideration could release the government of England from the duty of watching over the interests of the nations of the continent, and of this country, relatively to the former. The wisest statesmen had found the protection of foreign nations an object worthy of their most sedulous attention. The economy which would deprive a government of the means of exercising that vigilance and control, would be an economy of national dishonour, and, together with disgrace, would bring a ruinous expenditure. He and his friends had refrained, during the last session, from pressing this subject upon ministers, being unwilling to embarrass them with premature discussions, or to give occasion to the unfavourable impressions which their silence on questions of such moment would produce. They had hoped that events would arise which would justify their forbearance, and relieve them from any censure for a supposed remissness in this branch of their duty. But the time had now come when it was impossible for him to continue longer silent, and to suffer it to go forth to the world, that he took the same complacent and delusive view of the state of Europe in which ministers and others were so much disposed to indulge. He did not mean to question the eminent services which the right hon. gentleman had rendered to his country. He did not mean to deny that he had raised her from 84 a low state of obloquy to a very high degree of estimation; and he was convinced, that the right hon. gentleman, on the occasion of his recent visit to the capital of a neighbouring country, must have felt satisfaction and pride, and must have found motives of encouragement to a perseverance in the system of proceedings which he had commenced. He must have seen that he had secured the approbation and the respect of all who really wished for the good of mankind, and that his measures were felt as those which resulted from a correct view of the interests of humanity. But the right hon. gentleman must know, that, although much had been done, much still remained to be done; and he would have a mean opinion of that House, and of his countrymen generally, if they could be indifferent to the state of Europe. Instead of the condition of European affairs presenting a subject for complacency or congratulation it appeared to him that their aspect never, at any period, was more cloudy, more cheerless, more menacing, and more injurious to the system of domestic economy which it was so desirable to see put in practice. The right hon. gentleman had spoken of the dangers arising from the political condition of Portugal; but he had not told the House the causes of those effects. It would have been more consistent with the feelings, as well as the interests, of the British people, if the right hon. gentleman had told them of the cessation of those causes, by the army of France being withdrawn from the territory which it continued to occupy contrary to justice and good faith. Was not the time now come when the promises of evacuation made by France should be fulfilled? The House could not forget the avowal of the French government, that the purpose of their invasion of Spain was to overthrow a government which they falsely called revolutionary. One of their own governments partook more of that character, when the scaffold constituted the throne, and the sword was the sceptre. The government of Spain had displayed more clemency, perhaps, than any other government under similar circumstances. France had promised to retire as soon as measures should have been effected to prevent the vindictive reaction which was to be apprehended from the unsettled state of Spain. Having effected this, she still declined quitting 85 the country, under the pretence that it was necessary for her to release the king from all undue influence, and that she would go as soon as he had been able to organize a force sufficient for his protection. But this promise she kept no better than the former. How had she preserved her faith with regard to any one of the garrisons that had surrendered to her? Had the proscriptions ceased? Did we not daily see hundreds of Spanish exiles wandering about our streets in the lowest state of misery and wretchedness? The plea which France now set up for continuing her troops in Spain was, that she must keep them there until that kingdom had paid the debt she claimed from it. But why did not the right hon. Secretary insist, that in lieu of remaining there, she should have some island ceded to her for her occupation, and where she might be more under the control of England? He had heard it stated, that the French themselves were desirous of quitting Spain, and that they were only induced to remain there by the express wish of the king of Spain himself; but the king had no right to make any such application; and, if it were at all necessary for his protection, it was the French alone who had created such necessity. He could readily believe that the French minister himself wished the troops to be withdrawn: for it could not be forgotten, that at the great Congress he had expressed sentiments not very friendly to the principles of the Holy Alliance; but, he unfortunately had not the power to act, in this respect, according to his own inclinations and opinions: be had been obliged, notwithstanding his frequent protestations in favour of a more liberal course of policy, to suffer his own plans to be overruled and counteracted by the influence of the churchmen of France, who possessed a power the more to be dreaded, inasmuch as it did not present itself openly, but worked in secret: therefore we could not hope that Spain would be relieved from the intrusion of the French until England shall exert her direct interference for the accomplishment of this object. Would it not be better for us, then, to do this at once; had we not seen events lately take place with regard to Portugal, which confirm the necessity of our taking such a step; for had not the authorities of Spain been daily publishing the strongest invectives against the constitutional govern- 86 ment which the emperor of Brazil had thought proper to confer on Portugal? The French had been in reality, the concealed promoters of these invectives, and had not failed to secretly exert their influence to the utmost to bring this constitutional government into disrepute, and produce its overthrow. And were we not obliged to maintain a fleet for the protection of the Portuguese government? For how many years had we been obliged to be at the expense of supporting three sail of the line and 800 marines, in the Tagus? This state of things ought not to be suffered to last. Sound policy imperatively demanded that we should immediately put an end to it. We are told, indeed, that the French had only 17,000 troops in Barcelona and Cadiz; but, as long as they were permitted to have a single flag flying in that country, we could never feel ourselves secure that the repose of Europe would not be disturbed at any moment. No time, therefore, ought to be lost. France ought to be made to remove her troops from. Spain; and then, and not till then, could we put our forces on a peace establishment. But even if we looked at this question in a commercial point of view, we should find ourselves excited to the same policy; for it was a mistake to suppose that Spain and Portugal were not good markets, or that they were such despicably poor countries. We ought to recollect the enormous sums which had lately been poured into Spain; all of which would be speedily put into circulation, if the French army were removed. So that in every point of view, it was our interest to insist on the French evacuating Spain. He believed that the right hon. gentleman viewed this question in the same light, and that he was prepared to do his duty respecting it: but should ministers neglect the performance of their duty, it would then be incumbent on that House to require that we should no longer be at the expense of maintaining ambassadors at foreign courts for their protection, nor of keeping up so large a force on foreign coasts, and making so bad a use of it. He well recollected the answer returned by the right hon. gentleman, when he was asked by the hon. member for Montrose, why we sent ambassadors to small states; namely, that it was our duty to protect small states, and give them consideration. This was a liberal line of policy, and one 87 of which he highly approved; and he thought it would be a disgrace to that House not to act up to the spirit of it, or to permit any foreign state to usurp an authority over another independent kingdom.—Having said thus much regarding Spain, he must now say a word in reference to Naples. It was four years since the troops of France had entered Spain; but the Austrians had been six years in possession of Naples. In the latter case, as in the former, promises had been repeatedly made, and as repeatedly broken. There was yet no appearance of their departure. The inhabitants were kept in a state of the most abject subserviency by the invaders. There was actually an order in existence, authorizing any Austrian soldier to punish the slightest appearance of offence or provocation, either by word or gesture, by the infliction of one hundred blows. It was true the Neapolitans merited this treatment by their submission; but did it become this country to permit it?—With regard to another subject, it was impossible to reflect without shame and remorse upon the policy pursued towards a country not only endeared by the memory of the sages and great men whom it had produced, but rendered valuable and important by its maritime position. The Egyptian was suffered to overrun this region, to devastate its territory, and to extirpate its population. The sovereign of that nation had shown himself a man of extraordinary endowments, combined with great ferocity of disposition. In Egypt 30,000 Arabs and Nubians were organized by means of French officers, and brought into as high a state of discipline as our East Indian sepoys. But we had our Foreign Enlistment act, and while the French went in shoals to the enemies of the Greeks, we would not allow our officers to go to their assistance. This was disgraceful and shameful conduct in us, towards a people which ought, for so many reasons, to be dear to us. This was our conduct to them, when we saw the utmost efforts used by the Porte and by the pacha of Egypt, for four years, to exterminate with the assistance of other European nations, the manhood of Greece, and to carry off the women and children as slaves. The present Sultan of the Sublime Porte had exhibited the utmost energy and vigour, in carrying into effect his measures for the organization of his troops. He had shown himself a man of great ability 88 and cunning, and knew well how to cover the lion's heart under the fox's skin. He had lately concluded a disadvantageous treaty with Russia; but, could any one think that a man who had proved himself capable of doing as much as the Ottoman sovereign had done, was not, whilst he was drinking the cup of humiliation to the dregs, sweetening it with anticipated revenge. Let the millions which this sovereign had at his disposal be once organized, and, much as he estimated the power of Russia, he would say, that he considered the Ottoman power would be the more formidable power of the two. The right hon. gentleman need say nothing more to the pacha of Egypt than this—"You must not put a ship to sea for the purpose of carrying warlike stores to Greece." That prohibition would be quite sufficient to enable the Greeks to master the Turkish power in Greece. If the Greeks could not effect that, they were not worthy of liberty. He could see no objection to the interference of this country between Greece and the Pacha of Egypt, who carried Greek women into slavery. The principle upon which this country attacked Algiers was, the carrying Europeans into slavery. Now was the time, or never. Every assistance ought to be given by our government to the Greeks; and then that people would achieve their independence if the right hon. gentleman could persuade his colleagues to change their policy with respect to that country. In America, the right hon. gentleman was hailed as the benefactor of the South American States. In Europe, he was extolled as the severer of the Holy Alliance. But the right hon. gentleman ought to go still further, and use his utmost endeavours for the liberation of Greece. Let the right hon. gentleman do this, and he would secure for himself an imperishable wreath of fame, grounded on the gratitude of mankind, and the best feelings of human nature. Though last, not least, let his Majesty's ministers consolidate the interests of the empire at home: let them secure it against foreign invasions and internal machinations, by granting as a boon to Ireland, a measure which, if long delayed, must be ultimately wrested by such violence as might not only rend this mighty empire in twain, but would, he firmly believed, break it into fragments, which could never be reunited.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan,
member for Dublin, said, that he should betray the duty which he owed to his sovereign, to his country, and to the solemn oath of fidelity which he had taken at that table, if he were to remain silent on the present occasion. He had been most anxious to find reason to agree with the Address; but he was sorry to say that he could find no such reason. He could not agree to it; and yet, if ministers had introduced into it one single sentence, which ought to have been there, they would have had many additional votes in their favour. When the House considered the communications which they had from Ireland, it was doubly their duty to take care that all mention of that country should not be excluded from the Address. A certain confidential public functionary, who had lately arrived from Ireland, and who must be well acquainted with the situation of that country, had stated, that the great evil of Ireland, and especially of Dublin, was poverty—a poverty which might be banished, if the people of Ireland were put into such a situation, that they could enjoy the benefit of British enterprise, British industry, and British capital; but that they could not enjoy without the adoption of such measures as would ensure conciliation and peace between the two countries. All this would be effected, if only one single measure were adopted. He had that day seen the crown on the king's head, and he thought that Ireland was the brightest gem of the diadem, and that the brightest measure the sovereign could adopt would be Catholic emancipation. At present government was forced to keep a large army in Ireland; and such was the situation of that country, that the inhabitants could not sit down in safety by their own fire sides; and yet, while the ministers required from them allegiance to the king, they would not, in return, afford them defence and security. He had documents in his hands, which showed that in the speeches from the throne, in the sessions of 1822, 1823, 1824, 1825, and 1826, Ireland had been prominently mentioned: and yet, although mentioned at the close of the last parliament, the subject was altogether omitted in the present royal Speech. The ministers had asked indemnity for having permitted the importation of corn. Why did they not ask for indemnity for not having given peace to Ireland? For his part he could not easily bring him- 90 self to vote for the one indemnity, since the other had not been introduced. Even when Ireland had manifested the best disposition, and had shown the best conduct, the troops had not been withdrawn; because it was felt, that without emancipation Ireland was not secure. Conciliation and emancipation were the only sure means of giving permanent peace to Ireland. Let government adopt those means, and they might safely withdraw their troops. But, unfortunately, the mover and seconder of the Address could not agree among themselves; one of them thinking that the subject of Ireland ought to be introduced into the Speech, the other thinking that it ought to be omitted. The seconder of the Address had said, that if the measure of conciliation towards Ireland had been mentioned, it would have received his most anxious—here he had hesitated, as if he had meant to say "support"—but he had at length said—" consideration." But on this part of the subject, the hon. seconder's Speech had, in one respect, reached the very climax of eloquence; for, instead of all the most important topics which he might have introduced into his Speech with reference to Ireland, he had mentioned one, and that was the subject of potatoes. An Eastern king was once very ill, and sent for his physician; the physician happened to be an Irishman, and undertook to cure his majesty by means of potatoes. So the hon. seconder thought that every thing was to be done for Ireland by means of potatoes: and he assured the hon. gentleman, that potatoes were a sound and good root, and articles which would grow in the precincts of the Horse-guards and the Palace as readily as in Ireland. It was a base calumny to say, that the people of Ireland in general were ill affected to the government, they were generally well affected to the government, and only asked for that which, by the laws of God and nature, was their due, and ought to be granted them: and he hoped the people of England would not think the worse of them for not being so lost to a sense of the value of their institutions, as not to desire an equal share in them. Equal rights and equal privileges, were what they required; and with less they ought not to be satisfied. They asked no change with reference to religious institutions: all they asked was, to be exempted from civil and political disabilities, merely on account of 91 their own religion, and to share in the advantages of the constitution, equally with their Protestant fellow-subjects. This was nothing more than bare justice, and could not be resisted except upon a principle of exclusion. Had it not been for the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Montrose, he would himself have proposed an amendment to the Address, alluding to the present situation of Ireland. He begged to remind the House of the words of one of the greatest men this country had ever produced. He meant lord Chatham; and he could not help expressing a hope, that gentlemen who held that great man's son in veneration would extend their admiration from the son to the father. Lord Chatham, speaking of Ireland, had said, "Whenever the safety of Ireland is at stake, the question is no longer a point of honour, but becomes a contention for our very existence." It was in vain to attempt to evade the question of the state of Ireland. The subject would be forced, over and over again, on the attention of the House. He should have felt that he had deserted his duty if he had not stated his sentiments on this subject; for the danger was increasing every day. He begged leave to say, in conclusion, that it was but fair and just, that if Ireland gave to England her blood and her money, that England should give to her what, he thought, she was entitled to, and what, he trusted, the good sense of parliament would ultimately grant; namely, equal rights and equal privileges.
in explanation, said, that whatever measures would tend to promote the interests of Ireland, and of the noble race of men by whom that fine country was peopled, would always receive his cordial support, if he were convinced that those measures could be carried into execution with safety to the church and state.
§ Mr. Moore,
member for Dublin, was of opinion, that the diversity of sentiments which had been expressed in the course of the debate, had arisen from the absence of several topics from the King's Speech, which, in the judgment of different members, ought to have been introduced into it. He himself thought, that the state of Ireland had been sufficiently adverted to, in the present stage of parliamentary proceedings. On that subject he had never had but one opinion, and that was, that 92 the prosperity of Ireland was vitally connected with the prosperity of England. This opinion had been demonstrated by experience. In the same proportion as the great interests of England had advanced, so had those of Ireland. When the agriculture and manufactures of this country were flourishing, both those interests were thriving in Ireland. Nor did he think that there was any ground for the imputation, that the distresses of Ireland had been overlooked. In the passage in which his Majesty alluded to "the depression under which the trade and manufactures of the country had been labouring," his Majesty must be understood expressly to speak of the distress in Ireland as much as of that in England. He would have preferred that evening to have cautiously abstained from any reference to the Catholic claims; but he felt compelled to touch upon the subject, in order to disabuse the House of the impression, that the sentiments uttered that evening by the hon. member for Louth, and by his hon. colleague, expressed the unanimous feelings of the people of Ireland. For his own part, he felt that, in common with every British subject, they were entitled to equal rights on giving equal securities. It was only by adhering to that condition, that parliament could really promote the civil and religious liberties of the empire. He was convinced that that portion of the Irish constituency who were opposed to what was improperly called Catholic emancipation, were actuated by the truest and most genuine conception of the principles of the British constitution. It was an erroneous expression, to call the concession of the demands set up by the Catholics, an act of Justice towards Ireland. Ireland was not an independent kingdom, having a right to make terms for her own advantage, but an integral portion of the British empire, and therefore entitled to share the blessings of the British constitution; but he could assure the House, that the prevailing sentiments of the most influential portion of the constituency of Ireland were, that the best justice that could be rendered to that country, would be to secure to it the strict and inviolable maintenance of the essential principles of the Protestant establishment, which he sincerely believed were the safest bulwarks and the strongest defence of the British constitution.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
regretted that the 93 King's Speech had not been more clearly and strongly expressed. After eleven years of peace, he confessed he saw none of those earnests of economy, which he would have been glad to have witnessed. A right hon. gentleman, during the last session, had brought up a flaming report from the commissioners of inquiry, which blew the whole Stamp-office to—he would not say where, yet, what had been the result? The members of the Stamp board who were dismissed were immediately replaced by others, and four or five of the dismissed parties had had pensions given to them. That was the way in which economical reductions were made, for the good of the public! The great burthen resulted from the number of persons to be paid for their services behind the scenes. In the case of the Stamp board, it appeared that not above three of the commissioners had been in the habit of attending; yet, when dismissed, they were rewarded for their negligence by pensions. He did not find fault with the extent of our military establishment. He believed that the civility lately shewn abroad to the right hon. Secretary, arose altogether from his having the sword in his hand.
§ Mr. Richard Martin
was sorry that the condition of the Catholics of Ireland had not been mentioned in the Speech from the throne. If his hon. friend, the member for Dublin, would propose the amendment to which he had alluded, he would give it his cordial support.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, that though he agreed with the hon. member for Aberdeen in the opinion which he had expressed, with respect to many of the topics alluded to in his amendment, yet he could not, without an opportunity for more ample discussion, give his support to that amendment. No one had expressed the slightest objection to the Address which had been moved, but the hon. member proposed to tack to it an amendment, coupled with a speech, full of the most important considerations, and the House was called upon, in a new parliament, many of the members, probably, never having had an opportunity of considering many of the topics which had been brought before them, to vote for this amendment, which he really believed was longer than the long speech by which it was introduced. For his own part, he generally voted against ministers on all questions of economy, such as the retrenchment of 94 taxes, and the reduction of the army; and he would even go the length of saying, that he considered the Corn-laws, as they at present stood, to be injurious, and was ready to vote for an alteration of the system. He thought that 86,000 men were an enormous force for a peace establishment under any point of view; but, until he saw some system of government adopted in Ireland, which would give tranquillity to that country, he believed, melancholy as was the admission, that a force of that amount must be maintained, in order to preserve the peace of the empire. It was not his fault that the system under which Ireland was governed had not been altered; but if the present House of Commons should persist in the course which former parliaments had pursued, he must confess he thought that our present large military force could not be diminished. It was also necessary to consider many other important topics in relation to the question of reducing the army; such for instance, as our colonial system in all its branches, and our foreign relations. Agreeing, therefore, with many of the topics contained in the amendment, he, nevertheless, could not pledge himself to support them in detail, without a more ample examination, both of them, and of the objects of the hon. mover, than he had now the opportunity of entering upon. Resting upon his character with the public, and not fearing to have it thrown in his teeth that he was no longer the friend of retrenchment and economy, he would take the course by which he would be least fettered in the forthcoming discussions, and vote for the Address to which there was no objection, rather than for the amendment, by which he should pledge himself as to points which he had not yet had time distinctly to consider and decide upon.
Sir R. Fergusson
would vote for the amendment, because, as he conceived, it did not pledge the House to any opinion with respect to the topics introduced into it, but merely to take them into consideration.
§ The House then divided: For Mr. Hume's amendment 24. For the original address 107. Majority 83.
|List of the Minority.
|Burdett, sir F.
|Clive, E. B.
|Fergusson, sir R.
|Thomson, J. P.
|Harvey, D. W.
|Hobhouse, J. C.
|Wilson, sir R.
|Winnington, sir E.
|Monck, J. B.
|Philips, G. R.
|Robarts, A. W.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
then moved, that the following words be added to the Address:—"That this House desires to express to his Majesty their deep regret at the present state of Ireland, and to assure his Majesty of their determination to direct their attention towards that subject, with a view to the redress of the grievances under which his Majesty's subjects there labour:—That this House will apply their most serious attention to the investigation of the estimates which may be laid before them; and will take the most effectual measures for reducing the expenditure of the country in all its branches, civil and military, to the lowest scale consistent with the good government and the honour of the nation."
§ On the question, that these words be added to the Address, the House divided: Ayes 58. Noes 135. The original Address was then put and agreed to.